Monday, June 13, 2011

Ft. Collins Brewery Tours

The Beer Model and I have a kid-swapping arrangement with another family. They have two boys the same age as our two boys, and a few times a year we take their kids for a weekend. Then, they take ours for a weekend. This past weekend, we were without our kids.

I had been wanting to do the New Belgium Brewery tour for quite awhile. But, it is a long drive to Ft. Collins and dragging our kids along to do that just didn't seem like a good idea. Knowing we were going to be without the kids, though, seemed like a good idea to go ahead and do the tour.

But, the New Belgium tour is a pretty popular thing to do. They take tour reservations and their weekend tours are full for months into the future. Tracy called to ask if we showed up what the chances would be to get on a waiting list for any cancellations or no-shows. When, the Beer Model mentioned that her husband and she would be without the kids, the person she talked to told Tracy that she also had three kids and would get us on a tour. And she did. Awesome.

We got the earliest tour time (11 AM) so we could fit in some tours of other Ft. Collins breweries. We got to Ft. Collins around 10 AM, parked our car at our hotel and walked to the New Belgium brewery. It was a nice walk around a mile, and we got there in plenty of time.

As it turned out, a group of 20 did not even bother to show up for this tour, so we would have easily gotten in. Of course the tour after ours looked VERY full, so I am glad we had the peace of mind of having an official reservation. There were quite a few people on the waiting list who were happy to find out that 20 spots opened up.
The New Belgium brewery tour is absolutely without a doubt the best brewery tour I have been on. My only complaint was that Bernie (our tour guide) kept throwing all these cool benefits about working for New Belgium that made me absolutely jealous.

Of course, the New Belgium story is famous. And, it is a great story, but, somehow it sounded even better when Bernie told it. The tour includes 6 good-sized samples of New Belgium beer. The samples included Abbey Grand Cru, Super Cru, and even La Folie, so it is not like they held back the good stuff.

Of course as someone who actually does brew, seeing their brewing equipment and hearing about their alternative power sources and brewing efficiencies was down-right fascinating to me.

I even took a video of their Mash Tun at work:

AND, Bernie let us go down their slide:

So, if you are ever going to be in Ft. Collins, Colorado and need something to do, try to get a brewery tour. As I mentioned, they take reservations and those spots fill up quick, so sign up early.  Here is a link to their tour calendar.

I was able to use my AHA Membership "Pub Discount" in their tasting room. I bought a hat for 15% off, AND they gave me one of their globe glasses free with the purchase. That is a great little discount. I think I might have paid for my AHA membership for the year with this trip alone.

After the New Belgium tour, we walked 10 or 15 minutes to Odell Brewing Company in hopes of getting their 1PM tour. We did not get there quite on time, and they would not let us sign up for their 2PM tour yet. And, we were hungry. Neither the New Belgium tasting room nor the Odell tasting room serve food. But, the girl at Odell told us that Ft. Collins Brewing company had a brew-pub on-site, and it was within walking distance. We decided we had really better get some food, so we headed down that way.

The restaurant in front of Ft. Collins Brewery is called Gravity Ten Twenty. Their food was awesome for a couple of starving brewery crawlers. We got a couple of sampler trays to sample a wide range of the brewery's beers.

Tracy got a chance to update Facebook with pictures and status updates etc. It sure took her a long time to do it. I'm sort of regretting letting her get a smart phone, but it is too late now.

Neither Gravity Ten Twenty nor Ft. Collins Brewery are listing on the AHA website as participants to the AHA Pub Discount program, but I asked the waiter anyway. He had to ask his manager, and we did end up getting a 10% discount on our lunch.

With food in our tummies, we headed back to Odell to sign up for their tour. I got a hat there and used my AHA card there to get 10% off the hat and a FREE sample tasting tray. We had a little over half an hour until the tour, so we had plenty of time to do our tastings.

Odell has some great beers, but their tour is nothing compared to New Belgium's tour. The tour guide was not nearly as entertaining as Bernie. Plus the tour itself just was not as interesting. They didn't even give us free samples. Oh well. It was still worth it for me.

After the Odell tour, we headed back over to Ft. Collins Brewery. Again, we had plenty of time before their next tour, so I used my discount to help pay for another couple of taster trays for Tracy and I to share.

Whenever we share taster trays, we each taste all the beers. Then, Tracy claims one or two that I am not allowed to drink, and I get the rest.

The Ft. Collins Brewery tour is certainly nothing to brag about, either. One of the bar-girls shouted out for anyone who wanted to do a tour to follow her. It was pretty obvious very quickly that she really didn't know much about the brewery (or brewing in general). But, it turns out one of the brewers was following along as well, and he took over. I actually had fun talking to him talking about some of the geeky details. I'm sure no one else on the tour enjoyed it as much as I did. One thing about that tour that still blows my mind is how small their mash tun and brewing kettle are. To fill their bigger fermenters, they have to do their mash and boil three times. I asked the obvious question about if / when they are getting bigger ones. The brewer showed me where those are going (as soon as they can find time to set them up).

Honestly, Ft. Collins Brewery seemed like more of a larger scale home-brew setup to me. Amazingly, these guys distribute to about 10 states. There is nothing wrong with their beer, though. I'm just amazed how such a small-feeling brewery was able to keep up with demand in such a wide geographical range.

So, that was our last tour of the day. After Ft. Collins Brewery, we headed back to our hotel and checked in. Then we headed back towards where we had come from to eat at a local brew pub Cooper Smith's.  He had a nice dinner with another couple of beers. One of the beers I had there was a green chili beer, which I thought was pretty good. Tracy was not a fan, but then she never does like unique and interesting beers.

After dinner, we got into "Taste of Ft. Collins".  We wandered around a little bit, and then got to listen to Third Eye Blind, who were the headline act of the night. After they were done, we headed back to the hotel.

NOTE: I was going to put a video of 3eb in this post, but I didn't really like how it turned out.  Instead, here is one someone else posted to YouTube: we were much farther away.

Third Eye Blind is in the distance of this picture.

Sunday, we slept in for awhile with no loud kids to get us up. We had a leisurely breakfast and then headed over to a local park for some hiking.

My wife up high. Can you see her?
We got back to get the kids around supper time, so we let the the family who had taken care of the kids feed us brats and potato salad. They even started up a fire so the kids could have roasted (and non-roasted) marshmellows.

I think we all slept well that night.


  1. Heading there in September after the GABF. Great info! Only hit New Belgium last time, but wanted to stop at the others.

  2. Have fun, Hasher. Do you already have reservations for the New Belgium tour in September? Those fill up fast.