7. Hike, bike & beer…Colorado 8.2013

Day SEVEN - Friday

We arrived in Fort Collins (for those of you keeping track, yes we were MUCH closer to here last Saturday when we spent the day in Boulder.  But, the brewery we want to visit today, isn’t open on Sundays or Mondays, so we bit the gas & milage bullet & drove back  up here...not wasteful at all...no...not at all!).

We had a nice breakfast at the Silver Grill Cafe & it was a beautiful morning to sit at their outdoor patio.  Along with my breakfast I had fresh squeezed OJ which I consider a splurge, but OH how I love it!

Then we went on the longest search for a car wash (the kind with the wand...not drive through) ever!!!  But, we found one, washed the caked mud off everything & started to our next destination.

Danny & I have visited every brewery in Fort Collins except New Belgium.  Not being fans of Fat Tire, this wasn’t on our list...last time.  But top on my list THIS time.  So, in true to Vicki-form, we should up as soon as the doors opened at 10am.  The tours were already booked, but we managed to score a spot on their first tour of the day beginning at 11am.

Talk about fun people...of course, I’m sure when you love your job as much as they all seem to, happy-at-work is an everyday occurrence.  Our bartender, Derek was outstandingly awesomely knowledgeable about everything NB.  He also ended up being our Tour Guide, which is a 90 minute beer filled treat...don’t miss it if you’re here...or come here just to take it!

Before the tour began, Derek gave us a couple of samples.  Danny & I always tasted each other’s beers...even though our tastes are different, we do enjoy trying out anything new.  I started with a Curry Coconut Hefeweizen, which was way more curry than coconut & really different.  It’s not a beer you would want to sit & drink over & over, but I thought it was good...& really unique.  Danny had the Abbey Belgium Ale which we both like...but he’s more of an Ale guy than me.

The tour began & it was super good.  I love it when a place starts their tours out by saying “take pictures of whatever you want; ask your questions at any time; if you want to talk amongst your friends instead of listening to the guide that’s fine (just do it in the back of the group)” & they include lots of beer samples.  It was so laid back but uber informative.  In true Vicki-form, I was at the head of the pack.  I wanted to hear EVERYTHING the guide said...he was superb!

As we learned about the beginnings of the company, the stories behind some of the names, walked from brewing, to bottling to canning, & more, we were treated to samples of Pumpkick (their pumpkin beer), Rampant Imperial IPA (OMG!  fantastic), Ranger IPA, Yuzu Imperial Berliner Weiss & the LaFoile Brown Sour that was aged in wine barrels (very, very good!)

And of course, what would the tour be without telling us about their bikes.  They love bikes here at this employee owned company.  After one year, each employee receives a bike.  They had all their past years bikes lined up...SO. VERY. COOL.  (I kept saying to Danny, I could be a tour guide!  I’d love to work here!)

The tour ended with an optional trip down the slide ...who doesn’t want to work here?  The perks are fantastic!

After the tour we went to the bar to sample some new beers.  NB Beer had never been one of our favorites...but we more ignored it than tried & not liked.  Our opinion was changing with every sample we had.  By day’s end, the only beer we tried that we weren’t crazy about, was Fat Tire.  Everything else scored a “yes” with us.

They had 20 beers on tap.  And while we didn’t try them all, we ended up with a total of 13.  And, when we finally left, we wished we’d had time to try more.

I can’t tell you how friendly everyone was!  The place kept getting more & more busy, with tours starting every 30 minutes & it was a super nice Friday afternoon.  We did finally do some ‘vacation” shopping...I scored a t-shirt & we bought 2 different sized & logo’d tulip glasses...& they gave me 2 Ranger IPA lip balms.  

Here’s something the Tour Guide told us to do called “romancing the beer” .  If you’re a good-beer lover, try it.  Take a breath through your nose, hold it.  Then take a drink of beer & swallow it.  Release the air through your nose.  No kidding---you’ll smell & taste this beer in a stronger way.  

The rest of the NB beer Danny & tried was:  Pluot (plum & apricot), Lindsay’s S’more Porter (an employee created beer --throughout the year, employees get to tell a brewer what they’d like in a beer...this was Lindsay’s choice), Paardebloom (dandelion & peaches...very good) & The House that Beer Built (several breweries in the area are creating a beer for a fundraiser to build a home in Fort Collins for someone who needs it).

They don’t serve any food at the brewery, but have a different food truck come in each day.  They also encourage customers to bring their food in...whatever you want to do to continue to enjoy their beer.  (They also fill “anyone’s” growler (Free State will only fill their own...not sure if that’s their choice or some crazy ass Kansas Law... & on that note, we saw some pretty sweet & unusual looking growlers come by the bar.)

At one point in the afternoon, Danny & took a break, had a picnic on their lawn & drank lots & lots & lots of water.  Then we jumped on the bikes & headed through town.  We visited the “Gearage”...a used gear shop.  It started to sprinkle just as we made it to Hops & Berries...a home brew store & I wanted to show Danny.  What we didn’t know was that it’s next to Equinox brewery (actually owned by the same people) which we’d visited last year.  Even though we weren’t going to re-visit anywhere this time, we broke our “stupid rule” & each had a sample on their patio.  Danny had a Darth Ryder Dunkelweizen & I had the Galaxy IPA.  The beers were good...& I love their logo  (the t-shirt I bought when I was here last is one of my faves!).

We rode back to New Belgium & took a spot at the bar, feeling like we should owe rent.  We finished up with our last two samples of the day.  One of the bartender/guides asked me for a picture of my shirt...He’s a March Fourth Marching Band lover too (as he says a ton of people in Colorado are.  See how well I fit here?)

I’d spotted a M4 sticker on one of the bikes earlier.  But I was happy to be photographed in my super cool M4 shirt, but then asked him if I could take his pic in what I call “picture shirts”....his happened to be a beer-picture-shirt.  He was all smiles & happy to oblige.

It was way, way, way past time we leave New Belgium, but it had been so much fun, we learned a lot, laughed with the employees & enjoyed some extremely awesome beer.  I think we’re fans now!

We were good to drive so we took off south to hit the two breweries in Longmont.

We needed to eat something more than a snack, so we opted to go to Oskar Blues restaurant (they also have a taproom).  The call it Liquids & Solids...& have a ton of good beers on tap.

Oskar Blues cans ALL their beer...I think their even anti-bottle.  But the only one I’ve had that I really enjoyed before this trip was G’Knight...an Imperial Red.  Even though it was tempting to drink one of their many, many, many guest taps, we stayed with the Blues.  Danny had Station 3 Bavarian Style Hefeweizen & I had the Gubna Imperial IPA.  I really liked mine.  We split a salad & a 1/2 slab of ribs & were good to go.  

Their taproom closed at 8pm...we had about 30 minutes there (it’s very close to the restaurant).  It’s an eclectic little place & the guy we sat near was pretty funny to visit with.  Evidently in his job, he comes to Kansas City a couple times a year.  When we told him there was a Flying Saucer downtown, he about came off his barstool with joy!  It’s funny to watch that!  Danny had an Old Chub Scotch Ale & I had the Deviant Dales IPA.  

While talking to the funny guy, I noticed he had a sticker (OK...I’m 12 really...but why should you be surprised I collect stickers when last year I bought a Harry Potter Wand?) with a really cool logo from Strange Brewing.  He must have noticed I was drooling over it & nicely gave it to me...but then the owner of Strange had given it to him a few minutes before...she was in the taproom.  She overheard us talking & came over with more stickers (now I didn’t feel any guilt at all over eyeing the guys sticker to begin with) & invited us to stop by when we were in Denver on Saturday.

The taproom was about ready to close & we could still squeeze in one more brewery today...Left Hand was just a few blocks away & didn’t close for another hour.

We tried the sampler with 400 Pound Monkey IPA, Wake Up The Dead Imperial Stout, St. Vrain Tripel & the Octoberfest Marten Lager.  I didn’t love the IPA, but we both liked all the rest.

They definitely get my vote for the BEST BATHROOM DOORS OF ANY BREWERY I’VE EVER BEEN IN.  

The doors are filled with malts, grains, barleys, etc.  They look very artsy, but it so fits with the brewery.

We tried the sampler with 400 Pound Monkey IPA, Wake Up The Dead Imperial Stout, St. Vrain Tripel & the Octoberfest Marten Lager.  I didn’t love the IPA, but we both liked all the rest.

They definitely get my vote for the BEST BATHROOM DOORS OF ANY BREWERY I’VE EVER BEEN IN.  

The doors are filled with malts, grains, barleys, etc.  They look very artsy, but it so fits with the brewery.

OK...by now, I think I’d had more beer, water & trips to the bathroom in one day than any other in my entire life (I have led a sheltered adulthood...compared to some!)

We car camped in my least favorite place (I won’t mention the name) but Longmont seemed filled with mostly chain restaurants & chain stores.  Not much about it looked unique...but we could still see the mountains & stars as we feel into a super heavy sleep.  

Wow.  What a good-beer day.  (And, I’d be such a great New Belgium employee  :)

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