A friend of my wife and I’s, Chris, was in town visiting last weekend, and as the last leg of his stay here I suggested that we do a local brewery tour. He probably had in mind around 3 brewery stops… but I chose not to put a cap on my imagination. As a result, we ended up going to six. (Thanks Natalia, our designated driver 🙂
Our little tour started around 2:30 in the afternoon with a 20 minute drive to Fort Collins, CO. New Belgium was going to be our last stop, being that it’s so fancy and crowd-pleasing and all, but they close earlier than others, so it became our first stop.
Unbeknownst to me, we arrived at the launch party for “Shift”, their new pale lager. So there was really good live music and, of course, a lot of people drinking Tall Boys. We joined in on the Shiftiness and got the first round on the house. ‘Twas very enjoyable, despite being very crowded (we sat in a staircase). Whatever your thoughts are on New Belgium’s beer, it’s hard not to love the way they do business. They treat their beer and their staff well – and I’m not talking monetarily, which really makes for a refreshing experience when you come here. I also made Chris try “Dig”, their spring seasonal because he prefers pale ales. I think I had one too – I’ve had the rest of their beer and prefer the more interesting stuff like Beiere De Mars or Cocoa Mole, but today I was going with the flow. Besides, we had work ahead of us!
Next stop in the geographical brewing trifecta that is New Belgium, Fort Collins Brewery, and Odell was the latter, and I was eager to give it another shot. The first time I went with my wife was during the winter, and although it was slow, the staff was kind of rude and threw customer service out the window in favor of the upcoming tour. Prior to that, I had really liked their beer – but as you know, beer is also an experience – and one I wanted desperately to be on good terms with again with Odell. Anyway, this time it was a Saturday and the place was packed, which was normal – and it gave me plenty of time to jot down notes. We eventually reached the bar and like everyone, were ID’d for the second time for some reason, and I could just tell this place was a madhouse. I figured I’d go easy on the staff and not order a taster tray for my friend, so I kept it simple with a nitro porter and a 5 Barrel Pale Ale. I could tell that about half of the staff had more to drink than they should have – and it lent more to the unsettling atmosphere. Trust me, I was looking NOT to be dissapointed, but this was too much. The nitro porter was ok, but I was ready to leave. Strike two, Odell!
Fort Collins Brewery was up next, and like Odell, I couldn’t wait to give this one another chance. The last time my wife and I came, we tried their staple beer and specialty beer taster trays and enjoyed maybe 4 out of 12. However, I’m pretty sure I was in the wrong mindset at the time – and with breweries, I try to never form a solid opinion on my first visit – especially when they’re local. FCB was also really busy and packed, especially for it’s cozy little arrangement. However, the atmosphere was not frenzied, and pleasant conversations emerged as we sipped on one of their beers I’ve been dying to try, The Incredible Hop Imperial IPA. Chris really liked it too, despite not being a huge hop head. Sitting outside, getting quite buzzed, and chatting with strangers about our dogs and such calmed everyone’s nerves after Odell’s. Anyway, I can’t wait to try the rest of the Incredible Hop series from FCB. Full redemption.
For the next stop, we headed into the heart of downtown Fort Collins, to Equinox Brewing. Leo, a co-worker of mine and veteran beer geek, raves about the beer coming out of this place. Well, the last time I was here, I only popped in for a quick pint and ended up with some kind of pineapple IPA concoction that tasted like feet to me. And at this point you must be wondering if all my first experiences here were bad. Shit, quite a few weren’t that great… or perhaps I was lacking an element of patience or understanding then. Anyway, on this go-around I was ready to give this place my full attention. The taproom was small, but bustling on this particular Saturday – pretty much like everywhere else. There was a lively, young atmosphere that seemed devoid of any tourists. Chris bought me a Kuiper Belt Pale Ale, that was nutty and well-bodied – quite delicious. I left feeling increasingly intoxicated and that my first stab at the place was likely a fluke. I’ll be back – especially because they own a homebrewing supply store in the same building.
We skipped Coopersmith’s, which is right across the street. As a brewpub, it feels too much like a chain to me, but they have good beer. I’m sure we could have used the food, given how much we already had to drink.
Pateros Creek is another quaint little brewery in downtown Fort Collins, though slightly off the beaten path. In retrospect, I had gone from larger to smaller breweries, and it has been a mostly pleasant transition. This place has a nice, friendly environment with a knowledgable staff. But, to be honest, with beer averaging around 5% ABV and a few gluten free beers casually thrown into the mix, this place feels like it’s catering to an older, easy-going crowd. I like a little more bang for my buck – and the Porter and Pale Ale that I tried tasted watery to me. However, it left us with enough room to try just one more brewery.
We had to use the GPS to find Funkwerks, which I guess has changed locations and is now in kind of a strange spot. Maybe I just felt that way because I was pretty drunk and had no idea where we were going. According to my notes, it’s “in a cool little spot on the outskirts of town.” Anyway, the staff was super friendly and the crowd was very comfortable. Dogs were chilling on the floor and their owners were enjoying casual conversation. The beer… well, it’s made exceptionally well for it’s style, which is centered around farmhouse/ saison ales sort of like the way New Belgium is centered around belgian style ales. My only problem with it is that I only kind of like that style of beer. Overall, though, I had a really good experience here and it was a great final stop of our adventure.
So there you have it. The Brewery Tour of Fort Collins. Part 1… 😉