Happy Birthday to Me: Touring New Belgium Brewing Company

The second stop on our Fort Collins birthday weekend tour:  New Belgium Brewing Company, baby!  We were supposed to be here for my birthday last year, but a blizzard kept us away.   We scheduled this tour months ago and thankfully, the weather was perfect this time around.  Score!

New Belgium Brewing Tour

The New Belgium Brewing Tour

Our tour guide was wonderful, but sadly though we asked her name a multitude of times, I still can’t remember it.  I think it was Lisa, so we’ll go with that.  Anyhow, Lisa was great.  She provided beer education, information on the history of New Belgium, told us why Jeff Lebesch called his first beer Fat Tire and showed us all over the plant.  Best of all, she gave us beer and lots of it!  As soon as we walked in the door, we were greeted with a Biere de Garde.   After a quick history lesson, we went up to a room full of giant mashtuns and got a Blue Paddle.  Yep, this was clearly going to be a good tour.

New Belgium Brewing Tour

One of the more impressive stops was the barrel room, where giant wine (and maybe whiskey?) barrels towered over us, while Lisa taught us a thing or two about sour beers.  We got tasting notes as we sampled the La Folie.   Personally, I’m not a big fan of sour beers, but I gave it a good try.   Others in our group clearly had a much more sophisticated pallet than I, and they loved it.  Yeah, I’m talking about you, Brian!  Love it or hate it, it was impressive to learn so much about sours during the tour.

New Belgium barrel room

To wrap the tour up we visited the bottling line for a fresh Fat Tire, followed by the canning line and a newly canned Shift.  It’s amazing to taste a beer that was canned just a few moments before while watching a seemingly endless line of beers get processed in the room below.   I don’t know if it was the beers or the incredible display of automation, but I lost all track of what Lisa was saying about this point in the tour.   You don’t need words to be impressed by the incredible amount of beer that pumps through this room every day.   Wow.

New Belgium canning line

The tour officially ended when they brutally shoved us down a swirly slide to land in the tasting room.  Okay, that didn’t quite happen that way, but we did get to take a trip down the slide if we wanted and did land just outside the tasting room.   And in the picture below, Jeff does look terrified, doesn’t he?   Fun stuff!

Jeff riding that slide!

The tour was awesome, but my takeaway from the New Belgium tour was this:  My job sucks, their job rocks.  New Belgium is employee-owned and treats its staff very, very well.   They get an awesome New Belgium bike on their first anniversary.  Still not convinced?  Well, future anniversaries include things like a 10-week sabbatical and a trip to Belgium.   The day-to-day grind doesn’t appear to suck at New Belgium either, given the ping-pong tables and other fun stuff scattered around the brewery.  Oh yeah, and they make freakin’ beer, so there’s always that.  If I had a resume on me, I’d have given it to Lisa midway through the tour.  Then we would have both laughed and laughed…

New Belgium bikes

Once the tour was done, we spent some time in the tasting room with a few more beers, purchased some swag, and JessiFunn and I played a fun round of Rolle Bolle, a fun and surprisingly challenging Belgian shuffleboard type game.  I kicked her butt, but figure she let me win, given the birthday and all.   I think we need to go back for a rematch.

New Belgium is growing by leaps and bounds, and although some may think they’re getting too big for their britches, I still love them.  If you get a chance, plan a visit and check them out in person.

Next stop – Odells, and some drunken debauchery in Old Town!  Until then…