If you’re visiting Boulder I definitely recommend taking a trip north to Fort Collins. It’s a nice hour or so drive past large fields and rolling hills, with stunning mountains in the distance. Every so often you’ll come across a crowded housing development and wonder why people would want to live right on top of each other when there’s so much open space.
I wanted to go to Fort Collins so I could make my first visit to my longtime favorite Colorado brewery: New Belgium Brewing Company.
I first became a fan of New Belgium’s Fat Tire and Sunshine Wheat when I was in college in Texas. Since moving to Florida I rarely see these beers because they’re not distributed on the east coast (except in Georgia and the Carolinas). So to me, drinking New Belgium beer is a special treat when I travel out west.
New Belgium Brewing Company’s story started in a basement in 1989. Aspiring homebrewer Jeff Lebesch had just returned to Fort Collins after a bike tour of European villages famous for beer. Using ingredients and recipes he brought back, Jeff brewed his first two Belgian-inspired beers: a brown dubbel he named Abbey and an amber ale he named Fat Tire (in honor of his mountain bike). With the help of his wife Kim Jordan, Jeff took the brewery commercial in 1991.
Fresh from the tap, Fat Tire and Sunshine Wheat were even better than I remembered. Fat Tire is a well-balanced ale with toasty malt flavors and fresh hops. Sunshine has crisp flavors of orange peel, apple and honey. It is filtered, which makes it lighter than other traditional wheat beers.
It was hard to choose which other beers to sample at the brewery. There were ten beers on tap but each person only gets two free tastings (definitely go with friends so you can try more). I decided to try the Mothership Wit first. This is an organic beer modeled after Belgian Witbier or white beers. It has refreshing citrus and coriander notes with a hint of tart lemon. As someone who loves this style of beer, I found New Belgium’s Wit to be really good. I’d rank it right up there with my favorite American Witbiers, just under Blanche de Brooklyn from the Brooklyn Brewery.
For my second beer I decided to go back to the brewery’s roots and try the Abbey. This Belgian dubbel is brewed with six different malts and an authentic Belgian yeast strain. Deep golden brown in color, the beer has a rich and slightly sweet taste. It’s a really well-rounded, full bodied beer that can go with a range of foods from burgers to chocolate.
Though I’m sad to say this about my college favorites, I think I’d skip Fat Tire and Sunshine Wheat if I saw Abbey or Mothership Wit on tap. Though the day any New Belgium beer is available at a bar in Miami I’ll be there!