Beer Travel - Fort Collins
Thinking about heading out to Fort Collins for a weekend get-away? Here are some ideas to help with planning. I’ve included brewery pictures to give you an idea of what you’ll see at each place.
A Few Notes on Travel Prep
First, we went on a holiday weekend so rooms were in the $200/night range with little vacancy so we decided to try AirBnB for the first time. We had a great stay and would use it again. Be selective in your choice of where to stay and your host. You’ll want to be close to downtown and a good host can give you recommendations to enhance your activity plans from an insider’s perspective. Our hosts liked craft beer and recommended some beer-centric establishments that we may not have found on our own. This will sound strange to a Kansas Citian, but if you’re going in the Summer ask if they have air conditioning (don’t assume as we did). Also, a general theme across the board is the beer was very reasonable but the food is on the expensive side.
Play it Safe, Rent a Bike
Consider biking form brewery to brewery. The Fort Collins Bike Library lets you check out a bike, helmet and lock for a $10 fee per day. The bikes were much better than most of the cities with bike sharing programs. We were thankful that we decided to go this route as when we were driving around the evening before we were stopped at a DUI checkpoint located between two breweries. To rent a bike, go to FortCollins Bike Library > online bike reservation > become a member > fill out their waiver > pay $10 > pick it up (along with a helmet and lock) and get a brewery map > bring the bike back (you’ll be charged an extra day for after-hours returns but the cost is minimal).
Oskar Blues/Left Hand
On your way up to Fort Collins, consider stopping by Oskar Blues and Left Hand Brewing Company both in Longmont, CO which is about 45 minutes North of Denver International on I-25. We made it to 'Oskar Blues Homemade Liquids and Solids' for lunch which had Cajun-style food and a good selection of beer. We then stopped at Left Hand for a flight on their patio and this is where it starts to feel like you’re on vacation. The brewery is huge, great staff and, again, nice selection of beer.
New Belgium Brewing
The whole idea of the brewery was conceived by a guy riding his bike around Belgium and falling in love with their beer. This is the 3rd largest micro-brewery in the nation (behind Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada) and as you guessed the scale of the brewery is huge so you’ll want to get a tour. Their tour is rated five stars by TripAdvisor and books up two months in advance but our hosts coached us to get there early and get on the list as inevitably there would be no-shows. We waited at the bar (drinking $2 tasters of their Lips of Faith series) for about an hour and got on a tour where there would be MANY more tastings ahead. The tour includes the typical history of the brewery, being dwarfed by 64 foeders made from 100% French oak wine barrels and seeing the rock climbing wall created by the ‘Director of Fun’. Even if you can’t make the tour, drink at the tasting room and take their self-guided tour which includes quirky art.
Odell Brewing Company
From New Belgium, head .6 miles down the road and you’ll get to Odell. A recent expansion created a huge tasting room as well as an expanded patio with stage outside. Be prepared for long lines in the afternoon… at least that’s what we found. It’s beautiful inside, the selection was decent and their flight included Double Pils, St. Lupulin, FOCOllaboration, Trellis, Myrcenary and Dr. Acula (nod to Mitch Hedberg, perhaps?)
From Odell, head 1.2 miles down the bike lane to Funkwerks. It’s a much smaller tap room than the rest but a nice patio in which to escape. Funkwerks brews saisons with a yeast strain that gives it a very distinct, funky flavor from other saisons. Their flight included their flagship Saison, Deceit, Sorachi, Tropical Kind and Raspberry Provincial. You’ll be in the company of experts as each taproom employee is a certified Cicerone Beer Server.
Beer Detour: Feisty Spirits Distillery
We got only .3 miles down the road and came upon Feisty Spirits Distillery where they make small batch American whiskey, some of which was made with hops. A perfect detour.
Horse & Dragon Brewing Company
Just .7 miles down the road from Funkwerks, you’ll find Horse & Dragon, a fun brewery with some great beer. They had a decent size taproom and, once again, a patio. The flight consisted of a decent selection of 6 tasters for $8. The red building stands out so you can’t miss it… even if you've been drinking this whole time.
The last leg is 2.6 miles and brings you back into downtown to Equinox Brewing. Admittedly, I needed this longer bike ride at this point in the day. Equinox, around for about 4 years, is named for the perfect balance of light and dark in the seasons. They apply the dichotomy of their name to the creation of their beers (traditional vs. innovative styles, ingredients vs. technique, work vs. play). It’s a pretty popular place that is exclusively local as they keep all of their beers within a 2 mile radius and deliver their kegs on a trike. They are under an expansion to double their bar space but with no plans to expand their brewing capacity, bottle or distribute in order to keep it small and family run. The bartender mentioned that on Saturdays you’ll usually see more children than adults in the bar (treat that news as you’d like). You’ll find this place down-to-Earth welcoming and a good spot to end the day.
High Hops Brewery
About 15 miles outside of the city on CO 392 in Windsor, CO, you’ll find High Hops Brewery. It’s a 10 barrel brewery, a tasting room, a home brew store and a garden store. The patio has a stage and looks out on what seems likes acres of hops growing on trellises… as well as a great view of the mountains. Unfortunately, they weren’t open when we stopped by so I have no beer report to share.
Detour to Rocky Mountain National ParkSince you’re so close, consider spending some time in Rocky Mountain National Park. The East side of the park is easily accessible and has a lot of hiking options. Remember that you’ll be at altitude which can be pretty rough if you’re not use to it. Think hydration, sunscreen, and breaks to catch your breath. As I’m sure you know, you’re going to feel the effects of alcohol much more than at home. I think my quote was something on the order of “If I lived around here, I’d be drunk all the time!” Cheers!