A visit to Colorado is incomplete without visiting any of the titans of the craft beer industry that abound in the state. Back in the city I love and once lived in, Ft. Collins, I of course had to stop by New Belgium. One of the largest breweries in the country, this employee owned craft pioneer has been cranking out excellent beers since 1991 and yet still maintains the core values that encompass independent beer. They have even recently expanded to the east coast with a new brewery in North Carolina, a venue I am eager to visit next time I am in the area. So grab a Fat Tire, sit back, and enjoy this review of one of my favorite breweries in the country.
- Beer – The excellent amber ale known as Fat Tire may have started it all, but since then they have created one of the most extensive and creative line-ups of year-round, seasonal, and experimental beers you will ever find. Even though their focus is on Belgian and sour style beers, there are plenty of other options available, including their Voodoo Ranger series of delicious IPAs. How’s this for an endorsement: I’ve never been a lager fan, yet their 1554 dark lager is my go-to beer when I’m at the brewery. I could go on for days about their beer, so I’ll end this by saying this: if you have the chance, stop in to taste it directly from the source, or if that isn’t feasible, at least pick some up from your local beer store. You can thank me later. Score: 5/5
- Brewery – The tap room itself is smaller than you would expect in a brewery this large, but it is still plenty big enough. The main feature is the massive bar that extends most of the length of the room, with a second, smaller bar in the seating area off to the side. This is Colorado though, so the real draw is all the outdoor seating. With a large grass lawn and tons of outdoor tables, that is where I spent most of my time when I lived her and spent most Friday nights at the brewery. Even in the winter it is not too bad as they have a bunch of fire pits scattered around that can keep you warm. While they do not have a kitchen on site, there are food trucks almost every night. My recommendation is to go on a Friday so you can experience one of the best food trucks I’ve ever had: the Tramp About. I could go on about how good their food is for a few paragraphs, but I’ll just leave it at this: if you find yourself at New Belgium on Friday, do yourself a favor and get something to eat from them, you won’t regret it. Lastly, despite this being in Colorado, they charge low prices for their beer and don’t accept tips since they pay their employees well and everyone who works there becomes a part owner. Score: 4/5
- Ambiance and Entertainment – You can assume there is always something happening at New Belgium every week. From live music to beer release parties, holiday celebrations (my favorite was the Halloween party) to Tour de Fat, fundraisers to a visit from Bill Clinton, there is something for everyone. There are outdoor games to be played on the front lawn, summer cinema nights, and brewery tours (a must do when you visit). All in all, I spent a lot of time here simply because it was fun a place to be and there was always something exciting happening. Score: 5/5
- Location – Just outside the downtown (Old Town) area of Ft. Collins, you could walk or bike to dozens of restaurants, breweries, and shops within minutes. Or if you wanted to take a stroll, the Poudre river was close by with a lovely trail along its banks, as are several large city parks and nature areas. The brewery is very easy to find, with ample parking for both cars and bikes, and they even have a few electric car charging stations out front. Score: 5/5
- Customer Service – All ordering happens at either the main bar or the two satellite bars. There is often a bit of a wait as the lines are two or three people deep when it is really busy, but even so ordering moves quickly enough and everyone behind the bar is always so cheerful and friendly. After dozens of visits I can say I have never had a bad visit and will always go out of my way to visit if I’m nearby. Score: 4/5
Total Score: 23/25
Favorite Beer: 1554 – 6% Dark Lager
Final Thoughts: As if there was any doubt about my love for New Belgium this will lay it to rest. They are all around one of my favorite breweries brewing some of my favorite beer. I highly encourage you to visit either of their main facilities if you are close by, or at least pick up some of their beer if you see it in the store.