Fort Collins: Microbrew Mecca

Since hearing and seeing stories such as this NPR feature on Colorado microbreweries, I knew that I needed to see this business for myself.  For the first several days in Colorado, we only drank six packs from the stores or sampled restaurant beer in passing.  Friday, however, we made our way to Fort Collins, home to a number of respectable breweries.

Line of Lips of Faith tasters. Sounds sexy, no?

New Belgium was our first stop.  The brewery itself hits a lot of pretty excellent marks in business terms: female brewers, sustainable business and environmental policies, a willingness to experiment with style (I’m a sucker for their winter beer, Snow Day), and the emphasis on creation of a culture and community.  I enjoy most of their beer–we tried a number from their Lips of Faith series.  They also provided a cranberry seltzer that our designated driver appreciated a lot.  My only problem with New Belgium is that their emphasis on culture creation overshadows their product a lot.  There were no tasting notes for any of their Lips of Faith beers to speak of, not even what style they were, so we pretty much had to rely on our own experienced palates.  I’m not really a fan of blind tastings though–and though it tasted good, the atmosphere was very loud.  I had a lot of fun looking at the bartenders’ tattoos though.

Odell “Classic Flight”
Odell “Pilot Flight”

Odell Brewing Company had more of what I look for in a taproom experience: clear tasting notes, and beers arranged in order of the profundity of their taste–of their excellent taste.  The price was right too!  For both flights, we only paid $12 total.  The Classic flight included a wheat, an amber ale, an IPA, a Porter, a British Ale called the “90 shilling” which reminded me of Firestone Double Barrel Ale and seemed touched with a little bit of a smoky Scotch ale taste.  The porter was also a pleasant surprise, leaning closer to the malty lightness of a stout rather than the often scorched and syrupy taste that some breweries give their porters.  The Pilot Flight included a “Tropical” DIPA and an American Wild Ale–the double IPA seemed a little messy, while the wild ale-ironically- had a very sharp and definite flavor that I couldn’t get enough of.  I had to settle for just a taste, however, since we had one more place to visit.

Tulip glasses glimmer as the sun goes down.

Funkwerks, with its extremely appropriate name, specializes entirely in Saisons, which is a Belgian style sour beer characterized by wild yeast and warm fermentation.  The flavor approaches that of a cider with just enough graininess to keep it from having cider’s glassy texture.  The taproom was small and comfortable, situated in a semi-industrial part of town.  A Vietnamese food cart sat outside, and would have been a delicious pairing, though we didn’t partake.  They currently have a “Ron Burgundy” beer, which had a kind of dark and plummy flavor.  All the fruitiness came from the yeast esters, so there was nothing inauthentic about it.  Plus it made for a refreshing “dessert” to our day of tasting.

Ft. Collins is a great place for great beer, and since Odells and Funkwerks don’t sell beer in California, I guess I’ll just have to visit again!