One of the things I love about my state is that you don't have to travel far to find something to do especially when friends or family are in town and you want to entertain for a few hours. My sister and brother-in-law recently spent Memorial Day weekend with us and one of the main things they wanted to do when they were in town was visit the breweries in Fort Collins. The last time they had visited me, about 3 years ago I took them to the Coors brewery on a whim on a random snowy day where it was too cold to do anything but ski outside (which we did as well). So I did a little research and planned out our brewery hopping (pun intended) day.
Ft. Collins is a great little college town that's only about an hour and a half from Denver (so make sure you designate a driver if you plan on really boozing it up during the tour). There's plenty of great shops and bars in the downtown area and there's even a great concert hall called the Aggie theater. I first discovered Ft. Collins, ironically during my stint as a Miller Lite girl. I can tell you with the Budweiser brewery nearby Miller was not popular up there. Everyone has had a budweiser product in their lives so I opted for the smaller local breweries starting with New Belguim.
If you want a job in a brewery, this is the brewery to get in with. Everyone is so nice and friendly here and you get great benefits (which any tour guide will happily brag about). After one year you receive a cruiser bike, after five a trip to New Belgium and after 10 (or 15 maybe? I can't remember too much beer consumed here) you get a 6 week paid sabbatical. Of course there's the beer discount too on the amazing product. The brewery itself is always crowded so I highly recommend singing up for a tour ahead of time if you want to really see the inner workings of the place. Otherwise you can take a short tour on your own on the main level if you just walk in and the tours are full and you didn't make a reservation. You receive three bottle caps when you walk in which you can use to taste any of their beers. Most of their beers you can buy in stores so I always try the "Lips of Faith" brews which are dreamed up by the people who work there. They aren't sold in stores but you can bring home a growler of beer of some of them if available. I ended up purchasing a large bottle of the La Folle "Lips of Faith" which I didn't realize until I actually paid cost $17. They also have t-shirts, hoodies and bike themed stuff for sale.
New Belgium Brewing Company
Fort Collins, Colorado 80524 USA
After the New Belgium tour I took the group on over to the Odell Brewery which is just down the road from New Belgium. Here you have to pay for your tasters but they have a larger variety from New Belgium. They actually have menus where you pick which taster types you want and you get about 6 for 4 dollars. This is great for a large group of people because we each got a couple and passed them around the table while commenting on the ones we liked. They do brewery tours Monday-Saturday at 1, 2 and 3pm so if you want to do the tour you have to get there in time. The last time I did the Odell tour they actually had a keg of beer called Kissing Fish which was left over from one of the workers daughter's wedding which they specially made for her occasion. There's a good chance you'll get to taste one of their "experimental" beers as well if you take the tour. They also have plenty of merchandise to buy as well as growlers and 6packs although they don't sell their really high alcohol content beers (10% was the highest I noted on the taster menu) which is a shame. This place has been completely remodeled from the last time I was there about 2 years ago so if you haven't been in awhile it's worth checking out. Also if you live in Colorado make sure to bring your growlers back to be refilled when you go (at new belgium as well) because you'll get a discount on the beer you buy.
800 East Lincoln Avenue Fort Collins, CO 80524
Tap Room Hours: 11am - 6pm, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.
11am-7pm, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday.
Brewery Tours 1, 2, 3pm Mon. - Sat.
Our final stop for the day on the tour de Ft. Collins beer, was appropriately named, "The Fort Collins Brewery." I had never actually been to this one before but when I was looking up places to visit online I found it and decided it'd be worth a try. This brewery was actually the smallest of all three but they had a variety of tasters as well for $4. They have an excellent chocolate stout and their artwork that's on the beer bottles can be bought as well in poster size. I found their merchandise to be the most affordable of all the breweries and even though they didn't have as many beer varieties as Odell, the ones they did have were amazing. It was also the least crowded of all three of the breweries making it easier to actually hear each other talk and be able to sit at a table and relax. They sold growlers as well of which I believe we tried the Rocky Mountain IPA.
Their address: 900 East Lincoln Avenue, Fort Collins, CO
We didn't even make it to Coopersmith's Pub and Brewing but if you are still not sick of beer and looking for a great place to eat lunch (because it's a restaurant with a brewery in it) I recommend eating here. They have a great outdoor patio and you can order pints of their in house brewed beer. Coopersmith's is also located on "the strip" downtown so you can walk around and view the city a little bit afterward before making your way back home.
So there you have it a vacation that will make you feel like you are miles away (and make you wish you lived in Ft. collins so you could bike home) but won't cost a fortune or have you waiting in line at security. I'm a big fan of stay-cations so if you happen to have a weekday off (the best time to visit breweries in my opinion esp if it's a Tuesday) then you will definitely want to check these places out. And if you are planning on visiting Denver and have a friend that will drive you around you will most certainly want them to take you here...trust me they won't be mad at you....