While in Denver for GABF, there was also a lot of travel and exploration to breweries and tap rooms. One of the highlights was getting to Fort Collins and the tasting room at New Belgium Brewery.
Driving into New Belgium (located at 500 Linden) reveals a beautiful building that serves as a tap room, brewery, offices and the holding area for a million bikes. Exaggeration. There are dozens and dozens of bikes in racks out front. Some belong to patrons who have decided to pedal over to get their growlers filled. Most are part of “the fleet” of loaner bikes for employees. You know, for those quick trips into town or getting home after a long day of work when a car is just not the preferred mode of transportation.
The brewery tours fill up far in advance and there was no getting into one, unless I was going to tie someone up in the bathroom and take their place. I opted to sit by a sunny window with a Shift and take in the ambiance: a mix of corrugated metal and wood with bike wheel bar stools and chairs, and kinetic bicycle art on the wall. The pale lager lived up to its “pleasantly hopped” description. It was smooth and satisfying with well-balanced flavors. It was perfect to sip one while watching the folks come back from taking tours—all giddy from their experience. They proudly wore t-shirts from their favorite breweries back home in South Carolina, Michigan and Texas.
The staff members were all pleasant and dare I say downright happy. All the folks behind the bar had smiles on their faces and were having a good time talking to customers. If you leave a tip it goes straight in the charity jar to be donated to a non-profit organization. There are two sets of taps with 12 beers each. Of course favorites like Fat Tire and Abbey were on tap, but there was also Irby’s Ale and Yuzu from the Lips of Faith series. A big cooler behind the bar had packaged bottles, cans and bombers for sale. Lots of people were in line to have growlers filled as well.
I overheard a bartender say “Happy Birthday” to a patron. She was young. It was probably her 21st. What a way to be initiated into the legal drinkers club. I wish I had spent my 21st birthday in a craft brewery. It worked out, though. I discovered craft beer the following year on a trip to Portland, Oregon. Everyone has their own path to walk.
If you haven’t been to New Belgium it’s worth it. There is no food service, but there was a food truck out front on the day I was there. The atmosphere is welcoming and it was nice to see locals in the mix with the tourists. They’re open Tuesday-Saturday from 10am until 6pm, so it’s not a late-night destination. Sign up in advance for a tour and get there early and experience the vibe that is craft and Colorado. After attending GABF and going to the different breweries it is apparent that craft is a lifestyle in Colorado, not just a choice when ordering at the bar. New belgium brewery? yes, please.
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