Our second day in Colorado started with an amazing brunch in Boulder at Lucille’s.  We then piled into the car and headed to Fort Collins to visit the breweries there.  The first stop was the legendary New Belgium Brewery.  The brewery was huge!  The set up was almost like a ski lodge bar.  It offered a cool, hip vibe full of bicycles and thirsty tourists like ourselves.  NBB gave away postcards and offered free postage so we decided to send a few home.  That may have been JoAnna’s favorite part.

Ken's Hefe

Frambozen

We didn’t sign up for a tour in advance but got our names added to the waiting list upon arriving.  While we waited, we enjoyed a myriad of the beers offered by New Belgium in their taproom.  Collectively we shared the gamut and I skimmed tastes from each beer my friends ordered.  Jo, in keeping with tradition, tried Jared’s Porter from the Lips of Faith series.  I tried Ken’s Hefe, Frambozen (a raspberry brown ale), Old Cherry, and Snow Day.

Abbey Ale

We waited about an hour to hear our names called for the FREE tour of the brewery. Our first stop on the tour was a room off to the side of the taproom where we learn the history of New Belgium from an experienced beer ranger.  The story is supplemented with New Belgium’s Abbey Ale, one of the first two homebrew recipes of founder Jeff Lebesch.  Abbey Ale is a Belgian-style Dubbel with a strong banana  aroma.  We also learned the story behind Fat Tire, New Belgium’s flagship beer.  Jeff visited Belgium and used his American-style mountain bike for transportation.  The mountain bike had thicker tires than Belgians were used to seeing and thus a nickname and the beer were born.

Blue Paddle

As we left the orientation, we were treated to a second beer, Blue Paddle.  BP is Czech-style pilsener and one of the few lagers made by NBB. The tour moved into the brewhouse where the beer-making process was explained while we enjoyed a 1554 Enlightened Black Ale. 1554 also has a terrific story.  Phil Benstein, NBB’s researcher, and Peter Boukaert, head brewer, got into an
argument over the existence of a Belgian Dark Ale.  The recipe was proven to exist in a Belgian library during a trip.  The guys found the recipe in a book from 1554.  Phil and Peter snapped a photo of the recipe and were promptly banned from the library but not before they captured the recipe and began brewing one of my personal favorite New Belgium beers.

1554 Enlightened Black Ale

Now, the New Belgium brewing process is the same as that of any homebrewer but on a vastly larger scale.  The two biggest differences are the size of the equipment and the necessity for consistency in each batch.  The sheer magnitude of the mash-tun and brew kettle was impressive.

The next stop on our tour was the New Belgium canning/bottling line.  As we walked to the facility our guide pointed out several interesting aspects of the NBB infrastructure.  The canning/bottling facility is covered with solar panels which contributes over 3% of the electricity used at the brewery.  New Belgium purchases 100% of its electricity from wind power, the first brewery in the country to accomplish that feat!  The brewery even has its own water treatment facility.  New Belgium is very proud of its sustainability and rightfully so.  I appreciate that New Belgium continues to grow all while reducing its carbon footprint.

Fat Tire

Inside the packaging facility we received samples of the New Belgium flagship beer, Fat Tire.  Unfortunately the plant was down for the day so we didn’t get to see it in action.  Despite the inactivity, the plant is very impressive.

Our next stop was the New Belgium barrel room where we sampled my absolute favorite New Belgium beer, La Folie.  La Folie is a barrel-aged sour brown ale and it is supremely delicious.  It is tart but not overly puckering while at the same time maintains an earthy backbone.  The barrels at New Belgium where La Folie is aged are massive. While in the barrel room I met New Belgium’s LA Beer Ranger who showed me a few cool photo opportunities and shared some of the special beer tap with me.  The special tap was Rodenbach Grand Cru left over from an employee party the night before.  If I somehow missed you when I was there, thank you so much guys!

New Belgium Barrel Room

The employees of New Belgium are some of the nicest and most generous people I’ve beer privileged to meet.  That is no coincidence either.  NBB has some of the most innovative and creative employee benefits I’ve encountered.  Every employee receives their own Fat Tire bicycle after one year.  After five years the reward is a week long trip to Belgium to retrace Jeff’s steps.  Ten years of service earns 60 days paid leave of absence to pursue a life passion.  All of this is in addition to shares of the company.  I wish I had my resume with me right then!

Overall, the tour was out of this world.  The people, the beer, and the facilities are all world class which made the trip to New Belgium an absolute must do for any beer lover.


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