We Survived the Fort Collins Bicycle Breweries Tour
A tour of several Fort Collins breweries (13 as of this writing)? On bicycles you say?
It wasn’t a bike like the one in the photo (that is for next time), but this is a great trip for anyone interested in a leisurely bike ride on some excellent trails. And beer. Lots of beer.
Thanks to Sue and Lee for putting it together.
Did I mention that we had some beer?
A few statistics:
7 out of 13 breweries visited: FCB (The Fort Collins Brewery), New Belgium, ODell, FunkWerks, CooperSmith’s, Pateros Creek, and Equinox (on Sunday). The ones we missed (or saved for next time) were Black Bottle Brewery, Freedom’s Edge, Horse & Dragon, 1933 Brewing, C.B. and Potts. We also missed Anheiser-Busch…on purpose.
We did hit one distillery, which we all agreed was a mistake. The whiskey was good, but the mixing with beer…not so much.
23 beers logged on UnTappd (see below).
We logged many miles ridden, a couple of spills (Mimi’s was the worst! Ouch!) and one trick dismount/remount to impress my wife.
Trails to get there
The map above is an excerpt from the huge map of the trail system in and around Fort Collins, which has many trails for us to try on the next trip. Click on the map above and it will take you to the web site with the larger map.
Audrey and I had not been on bicycles for many many years. We did a short ride in Denver the day before we headed to Fort Collins just to get back in the saddle, and it was a good thing we did. Lee had mapped out a great ride for us to get from our hotel (the Hilton off of Prospect, on the map near where is says “Lilac Park”) down to Spring Creek Trail over to Poudre Trail and up to our first brewery, Fort Collins Brewery.
It was a great day, a great scenic trail ride along side a small stream for a good part of the way on Spring Creek trail, and past a few parks. There were lots of riders out.
As we got to the intersection of Poudre Trail, which goes along the Pourdre River, we noticed several people coming back. Some told us the trail was underwater, but being intrepid and in need of beer, we carried on. What’s a little water?
It was a lot of water. The snow melt had made the trail impassable. There were signs closing the trail as it went south, and that part was obviously under several feet of rushing water. We were able to go north a bit from the intersection of Spring Creek Trail and Poudre trail, and though we could see the other side of the trail, it would have been a nice wade (not ride) through at least waist high water to get there.
So we back tracked along Spring Creek Trail to Lemay Road. We were trying to avoid street riding, but we had a 1:30 tour at New Belgium, and wanted to be at FCB for lunch. We powered up Lemay and came to the point where the Poudre Trail came out…or at least, where it came out of the water!
Fort Collins Brewery
We finally arrived at our first stop, the Fort Collins Brewery, with lunch at the Gravity 1020 restaurant attached to the brewery. Our visit was a bit quick, but we managed to fit in lunch, a flight of seven seasonals, and another half-pint of the Chocolate Stout by yours truly. Of the flight, the Maibock and Wallace Wee Heavy were favorites of mine and Audrey’s; Sue also liked the Wee Heavy while Lee preferred the Tongue Slapper (one of the better named beers). The bar and restaurant are great places; we did not enter the brewery, but you could see it through the floor to ceiling windows that lined the restaurant.
Since we had a short time, we returned here on our way out of town the following day, trying another beer or two, with Lee filling up his New Belgium labeled growler with FBC Wallace Wee Heavy…no cursing was heard from up the street as the FCB beer entered the growler.
I read later that FCB used to be in the location where FunkWerks is now, and held a different name (H.C. Berger Brewery) but moved to this nice location in 2003.
UnTappd beer loggings and ratings below. The first seven are the flight, then a half-pint of Chocolate Stout. We tried their other stout the next day, but the Maibock and Wee Heavy were still our faves.
Eight beers on the tour, plus one on Sunday. The count continues!
Lee had called two months ahead to reserve us spots on the 1:30pm New Belgium tour. Powered by FCB beer and lunch, we made the quick ride to the New Belgium brewery and arrived with ten minutes to spare. I eyed the taps hungrily, only to be warned by Sue “you don’t need to buy a beer on this tour.”
I’m glad I listened to her. Our 90 minute brewery tour provided us with five tastings (and they weren’t small) great stories and information about not only the brewery but the surrounding area and history. Unfortunately, our tour was led by a Chicago Bears fan, who I taunted mightily with my Green Bay Packers attire. This tour compares favorably to the Samuel Adams tour – Sammie’s was a shorter tour, with pitchers of beer at the end, while New Belgium’s was longer and frankly more fun (that is a part of their corporate credo!).
Among the stories shared was how New Belgium’s signature beer, Fat Tire, got its name. Of course, it had to do with the large tires on the mountain bikes which were unique in the early days of New Belgium. The New Belgium employees all get certain bike on their anniversary (1st year, I think) so they can tell the newbies from the veterans by the model of their bike.
We also did several unique tastings. I’d visited and drank several brews at Cigar City, a brewery in Tampa Bay, during several work visits there. The Cigar City Collaboration with New Belgium was quite excellent.
We were also treated to a double tasting of a version of a pre-sour Oscar, and the sour beer after the processing (several Oscar and Felix jokes ensued). Although our intrepid guide warned that the sour beers initial taste would shock and surprise, Sue’s expression says it all.
The bottle factory in Fort Collins does almost 1,000,000 bottles a day (we watch the bottle counter). To expand that number and to get into the other states they are not, they are building a new brewery and bottling factory in Ashville, NC, to be opened sometime in 2015.
Total for the day: 14 beers on the tour, plus the Helles at the Denver airport on the way out of Denver.
Some master planner-evil-beer-drinker-dude must have planned to put all of these breweries close together. It did not take any time at all to get from New Belgium to O’Dells. Two more friends (Hutch and Mimi) joined our merry roving band, and we did the less than one mile ride down to O’Dells…which, no offense to the others, was the most scenic brewery of the entire tour. The “back yard” was very picturesque.
They were celebrating the release of their Double Pilsner, so I gladly celebrated with them. Audrey had the Cutthroat Porter, and I had beer envy – hers was better. Sue got a black ale named Dr. Acula, which I then translated (or Transylvan-ated) to “Dracula” much to her delight.
Audrey and I needed a quick brat to soak up some of the beer while we sat on the grass and soaked up some of the sun. Then we were off again.
17 beers on the tour and counting!
We hit the road again, driving past our original starting point of Fort Collins Brewery, and rode quite a ways down to get to a small brewery called FunkWerks. They were only serving five beers – a Saison, a Saison with Amarillo Hops, Deceit, Tropic King and a Belgium IPA.
They did have cool shirts on sale, and my wife can now advertise “FunkWerks” where ever she may roam.
Audrey and I shared the Deceit and the Tropic King. Tropic King was a bit too fruity for my taste (Audrey liked it) but I did quite like Deceit.
Nineteen beers on the tour.
We left, headed toward downtown, and made our first mistake…we saw a distillery on our side of the road named Feisty Spirits. We only had one flight to share amongst the six of us (and the Apple Brandy was awesome). And they had great shirts! But this detour, whiskey in the midst of beer, limited our later beer consumption.
We made our longest ride yet, back from the boonies into downtown Fort Collins. Perhaps it was long because of our poorly conceived stop at the distillery? Nevertheless, we made it to CooperSmith’s Brewery and Pub.
The weather had cooperated for the entire day, but it began to rain as we locked up the bikes. We decided it just meant our decision to have dinner at CopperSmith’s was a good one.
I had a sample of the Chili beer, and am glad that is all I had. A good taste, but not something to have with dinner. Their Horsetooth Stout went very well with my burger (more bread, more liquid bread).
Twenty-one beers on the tour.
Pateros Creek Brewing
Our last stop of the day (except for the chocolate shop) was Pateros Creek. We were at the point of sharing pints so we ordered the Porter. I believe it was good…and it made twenty-two beers on the tour!
A quick stop at the chocolate shop, then a major bicycle faux pas by yours truly. I did not see the “walk your bike” sign (there was construction, but I should have known) and almost ran over some poor pedestrians. I managed to stop the bike by jamming my shin into the pedal (worked well, but I don’t recommend it).
After that, we found the Mason Trail, which is really a nice wide sidewalk along the railway line. It got us very close to our hotel, where we all passed out for a deep sleep, interrupted only by the damn train blowing its whistle frequently.
The Morning After – Breakfast, Equinox, and Around town
Of course, we rode our bikes to breakfast the next day, which came a bit earlier than we all would have liked. We retraced our path up the Mason Trail (which we became well acquainted with). After searching for one restaurant, as usually happens when we travel, the one we happened on indeed up being a great one: Choice City. The restaurant not only had awesome breakfast (biscuits, eggs and gravy to soak up any lost strands of beer) but had a great collection of beer pull taps on the back two walls, a “signed” bottle (empty) of Firestone Walker Parabola and a nice selections of beers on tap.
We did not partake…yet.
We rode back down the Mason Trail briefly over to the Colorado State University campus. The video below (taking at great personal risk, cause, you know, I hadn’t been on a bike for several years) was taken going through a great canopy of trees.
As we were pedaling back downtown to meet up again with friends, I took a corner too quick (cause, you know, I hadn’t been on a bike for several years). There was a rock brick walled garden on the left the got steadily higher. I hopped off the bike, keeping hold on the handlebars, ran up the rock wall and launched myself into the air, landing on the bike seat without injuring any future generations. My wife’s exclamation behind me went from “Oh crap” to “HOLY CRAP”.
We found our seventh and final brewery, Equinox, where several of those six person cycles were parked. Equinox had some of the best geek named beers on the tour: Darth Vernal Dunkelweizen; Super Collider SMASH IPA; Super Nova Imperial Pale Ale; and my choice, Deep Space Porter, which was on their “British” beer engine with Vanilla. It was quite refreshing.
I also tasted Lee’s root beer, and, of course, counted that.
By then it was time to pack and head back to Denver. We did our drive-by to taste one more at FCB as describe above, and left, vowing to come back and conquer more trails and Fort Collins breweries.
Fort Collins Breweries Epilogue
After surviving the Fort Collins breweries on bicycles, Sue made pancakes, I played with my food. The end.