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Fort Collins – My Kind of Beer Town (GABF Good Beer Trip part 1)

October 9, 2011

We’ve returned from our latest Good Beer Trip to Colorado and the 2011 Great American Beer Festival.  In typical Good Beer Trips fashion we didn’t want to rush things, so we decided to fly in the weekend before and stay a few nights in Fort Collins and Boulder before settling into Denver for the big event. Nine nights, seventeen breweries, two sessions at the GABF, and copious amounts of beer later our bellies are full, we are exhausted, and we are happy.

Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids and Solids

Oskar Blues
We went straight from the airport to Oskar Blues Home Made Liquid and Solids for lunch and then to Oskar Blues Tasty Weasel Taproom and Brewery, because we just happened to drive by it. If you’re hungry and looking for good food then you should definitely go to the first, but if you just looking for beer I’d go to the second.  Both served the Oskar Blues beers that have made beer in the can cool again plus some not available in the aluminum to-go container.  The standouts were the award winning Mama’s Little Pils on nitro, Home Grown Hops (HGH) Strong Ale, and the Oaked Ten Fidy. Others tried were: Little Half Squat English Mild, G’Night (fka Gordon’s) and Old Chub & Dale’s Pale.

With a lot of will can power, we managed to leave the Tasty Weasel and make it to our condo in Fort Collins.  Once again VRBO did not let us down.  It was only a studio, but it was well laid out and plenty big for us, had a great patio, and was perfectly located in the heart of downtown.  There were eight breweries within two miles, and two within a block. Truly my kind of town!

Coopersmith's Brewpub

Coopersmith’s Brewpub
After freshening up, we were ready for dinner. Our destination was downtown’s Brewpub, Coopersmith’s.  It was Friday night and happening; the Pubside and Poolside were both packed.  We found a table on the latter side, ordered a pizza and a couple of pints. The Ry PA and Albert Damn Bitter were both very respectable, though a little sweet. LuschC doesn’t know what I’m talking about, as she liked the Bitter. Later in the week we returned a second time and I was much more impressed with the malty and big floral hopped Hand Pulled Punjabi Pale Ale (Handjabi) and the light bodied toasted caramel Not Brown Ale.

 New Belgium Brewing
The following day we ventured off on the first of many Urban Beer Hikes (UBH) on the trip.  Not wanting to over exert ourselves as we got accustomed to the higher elevation we kept it to a respectable 5 miles or so.  Months earlier I booked a tour at New Belgium our first brewery of the hike. Say what you will about them, but their brewery grounds were amazing, the tour was incredible, and I still like their beer. You start of getting a token for a sample (I had the Belgo IPA) before/after the tour and then on the tour getting five more samples (Abbey, Ken’s Hefe, Mothership Wit, Fat Tire, & La Folie) as you peruse the facility learning about the brewing process and the history of the company. Our tour guide and New Belgium Blogger, Michael, kept it lively and interesting; clearly showing that he loved his job and company. My favorite part was sampling La Folie amongst their massive oak barrels. The tour culminates with the option of going down the (adult size) brewery slide. Be careful, it’s not as easy as you remember and you may get burns on bare skin. (Just ask LushC)

Taster tray at Gravity Ten Twenty at Fort Collins Brewery

Fort Collins Brewing
Up next was Gravity Ten Twenty in the Fort Collins Brewery (FCB) for lunch. It has a colorful industrial feel surrounded on two sides by window that look into the heart of the brewery.  Of the few places we ate in Ft Collins they had the best food. The burger was awesome, and the Beef Wellington I had on our second visit was delightful.  LushC’s salads were fresh and interesting.  Make sure you ask for the bread and Stout Honey Butter, ooh-la-la, so amazing!  The service was also great, and our bartender, Danny, was the best we had on our whole trip, pulling us extra FREE tasters, including a couple tastes of local Whiskey and Gin.

In our two visits to FCB we tried twelve of their house brews. (Haus Brew Cream Ale, Major Tom’s Pomegranate Wheat, Rocky Mountain IPA, Kidd Lager, Z Lager, Chocolate Stout, 1900 Amber Lager, Red Hot Chili Porter, For Love of Peach, Common Ground, Dopplebock, Incredible Hop)  Our favorite by far was the Common Ground Amber ale infused with coffee locally roasted by Jackie’s Java. Much lighter than most coffee beers, it was smooth and very easy to drink with a subtle coffee and vanilla flavor.  Minus the lemon zest it reminded us of Giddy Up, one our favorite New Belgium beers. The Z Lager Smoked Amber Lager (Rauchbier) was also very good; clean and crisp with a nice smoky but not too smoky flavor.  Be very aware of the Incredible Hop Imperial India Wheat Ale that drinks like a session beer, but is 9%ABV. It has a ton of floral and piney hop flavor, with a touch of honey, and is very smooth.

Before leaving FCB, we took a peak in the Taproom. Smaller than the restaurant, it had a good vibe, and seemed like a great place if you only want to have a few beers or go on a brewery tour. Unfortunately, we never made it back to see for ourselves.

Odell Taster Tray

Odell Brewing
We left FCB and walked the two blocks to the Odell Brewing Taproom.  It was Saturday and they were celebrating the release of their Barrel Aged Stout with a band and food trucks in their parking lot; it was packed with a line about out the door to get a beer.  We waited in line, ordered a classic sampler and then found a table outside on the patio. The classic has their entire regular lineup of beers.  (Easy Street Wheat, Levity Amber, 5 Barrel Pale, 90 Schilling Ale, IPA, Cutthroat Porter)  Our favorites were the smooth and well balanced 90 Schilling Scottish Pale and the citrusy hoped IPA that had a hop explosion in the end.  In addition, the medium bodied robust Cutthroat Porter was to our liking.  By now we were really feeling the altitude, heat, and alcohol, and needed to rest. We left, with a growler, heading back to our condo.

On Monday we did our second Ft Collins UBH. We returned to Odell which was not as hectic which allowed us time to get a better look around.  You enter to a long, narrow taproom with a sky-lit vaulted ceiling and lots of wood. You order your beer at the front, and then you go to the end of the bar to pick it up.  They have a pretty efficient system. We used the coupon from the Ft Collins savings book that you can pick up at the downtown Visitor Center to order our FREE Pilot Sample that included a few of their seasonal and specialty beers. (Bird Seed Blonde, Pro-Am Dortmunder, Nitro 5 Barrel Pale, Town Pump Pail Ale, Myrcenary Double IPA, & Nitro Cutthroat Porter) The Bird Seed was interesting as it was made with 35% Millet, but had a fennel finish that just didn’t do it for me.  The crisp, refreshing, bitter hopped Dortmunder and the light malted, whole floral hopped, sessionable Town Pump were my favorites.  After tasting the sweet, citrusy hopped, 9.8%  Myrcenary LushC said, “Watch out for the Myrcenary who goes for blood”.  Before leaving, I had to try their Imperial Stout that had been aged in Woodford Reserve Barrels. Wow! It was muy fuerte; very sweet, robust malt, with tastes of oak, vanilla and alcohol. Good, but not the beer I needed at the moment since we had two more stop.

Pateros Creek Brewery (Oktoberfest Celebration)

Pateros Creek Brewery
Back to our first UBH, after resting a bit back at the condo we ventured out to walk around downtown. We checked out a few shops and then the sound of live music lured us to the entrance of the Pateros Creek Brewery  (PCBC) Oktoberfest.  We didn’t really need any more beer at his point, but I couldn’t resist a parking lot party at Ft Collins’ youngest brewery. (3½ months old) There was a blues/soul band playing, sausages grilling, games, and beer.  We checked out the outside and then ventured inside. It was a small tasting room, but they did a nice job, giving it a rustic ambiance, with river rock, wood, and a cool faux barn hay door on the wall.  Needless to say, they were very busy, but still took time to tell us about their beers.  LushC ended up ordering the Car 21 Best Bitter (which I ended up drinking a lot of), and I got the seasonal Pumpkin Ale.  I was past taking notes but according to my Facebook/Twitter posts I liked them, “Pateros Creek Pumpkin Ale… pretty darn good for being open only 3.5 months” and “The Car 21 ESB is also pretty tasty @ Pateros Creek Brewing”. We fully intended to return and try more of their beer, but we failed miserably.

Equinox Beer Garden

Equinox Brewing
The following day after looking a bit out of place walking on the bike trails of Ft Collins, we returned for our second visit to Coopersmith’s for lunch, and then went a quarter of a block away to Equinox Brewing.  We tried to go to Equinox first, but they only have snacks, and we were pretty famished.  Another small taproom, it was nicely decorated with an old world charm.  They have a decent size bar, and several tables on the two sides of the store front.  The gem was the Beer Garden in the back; shady, with plenty of tables to enjoy the fine beers that Equinox brewed just inside. We started out with their standard sampler. (Autumnal Alt, Haver Scottish, Eclipse Brown, Galaxy IPA, Remis Saison IPA, & Jonas Porter) The malty, well balanced Autumnal Alt; the clean malt backbone and citrusy hopped Galaxy IPA; and the rich, robust, bitter sweet chocolate and coffee Jonas Porter were our favorites. Luckily we struck up a conversation with the table next to us, who gave us a lot of tips for the area.  We had planned to go on a hike in the mountains the following day that would have had us in the car most of the day.  But they recommended a local hike, Horsetooth Mountain, that would be better, and only a short twenty minute drive away.  Thank you!

We returned to Equinox the following night as the fourth and final stop on our second Ft Collins UBH.  I had a KBB Bitter on cask that I know I liked, but I neglected to take notes.

Horsetooth Mt .

The hike to the top of Horsetooth Mountain was pleasant.  The well groomed trail gained about 1400 feet of elevation in its 2.5 miles through the foothills.  Along the way we saw what we think was a bear and her cub on the ridge opposite us. (After getting a second glance on the way down and after looking at the photos, I believe I was mistaken)  The last 20 ft. you had to climb up the rocks to get to the top where you are greeted with a 360 degree view of the Front Range, Ft Collins, the Rocky Mountains and , and north all the way to Wyoming. I think I even saw Russia.  It was well worth it!

Funkwerks

Funkwerks Brewery
The hike made lunch at FCB’s Gravity Ten Twenty that much better.  We took enough time at the condo to cleanup and then we were off on our second UBH.  We intended on checking out bikes at the Ft Collins Bike Library but they were on their fall schedule and were closed on Monday; so we took off on foot. After FCB, we went to Odell (see above), and then on to Funkwerks Brewery.  They are located nine blocks from FCB in the original home of FCB. Funkwerks fills a special niche in the Colorado beer scene brewing up farmhouse style Belgian Ales and Saisons.  They have a small taproom and beer garden in the front of the brewery.  On this night they were having a benefit for a New Belgium Brewer who had been in a bike accident.  The place was packed; filled with friends, family and what seemed like the entire brewing industry in Ft Collins. They had some interesting beers, and we both decided to try a couple of the more different ones; Hibiscus Resistance and a Key Lime Rye.   Both were interesting.  I think the corporate description will be the best way to describe them.

Key Lime Rye 5.3% ABV
For our second summer seasonal, we used a blend of both rye and barley malt then fermented using our house saison yeast. After fermentation, we added key lime juice to give off a wonderful citrus note to the aroma.

 
Hibiscus Resistance 7.2% ABV
We added hibiscus to our Belgian Resistance for our mid-summer seasonal! The toasty maltiness is rounded out with citrusy floral notes and tart flavor from the hibiscus, and tropical fruit characteristics from the Rakau hips.

Since we walked, we only had time for one beer if we wanted to make it to Equinox before they closed.  It was a brisk dusk walk along the Poudre Creek trail with bats flying overhead and we barely made it to Equinox.

In the morning it was time to move on to Boulder. Four nights in Ft Collins gave us a good flavor for what it has to offer, but I’m not sure it was enough time. I would really have liked to spend more time at Coopersmith’s, Odell, Fort Collins, Equinox and Pateros Creek.  It looks like we will have to return.

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-To be continued-

FTC INFO: Unless otherwise noted, nothing was received for free.

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