I had been looking forward to this and was lucky to be able to get on the tour at such short notice. It's good to have contacts in the industry I guess. The first thing I was stuck by was how large the building was but I that was only part of it. There is a lot more to the brewery than the building in the image above.
I had trouble getting through the doors. They would not open and I thought it was closed for a moment. Then my friend tried and it worked so in we went to the laughter of the girls on the welcome desk. Off to a great start it seems. I registered our party and got our tickets for the tour. I was also handed a coupon for free beer and bomber (large bottle of beer), which was unexpected and welcome.
We proceeded to the bar and I grabbed a Ranger IPA before the tour, though I paid for that as I wanted to use my free pint voucher wisely and take some time over that choice.
I needn't have bothered with the beer because the first thing we got on starting the tour was a beer, and I think we got 5 beers throughout the tour. Since the tour is free, that makes it extraordinary value for money and believe it or not, the free beer is not what makes this the best brewery tour I have ever been on.
Future wort was being mashed while we were there and it was great to see it in action. I never get to see my own beers mashing like this as I don't have a fancy mash tun with glass viewer at the top.
If anyone wants to change their religion, or join one, there is a number to call above. I'm pretty sure it's not a cover for a similar sounding "church".
The bottom of the fermenting tanks were not talked about on the tour but I thought it worth taking a picture anyway.
This was one of the more interesting parts of the tour, they have a lot (could not count) of old wine barrels that they use for aging beer, especially their sour beers.
Each one has a little spigot for sampling, though we did not sample directly from the tanks unfortunately.
I was very impressed by the New Belgium sour beers, and we got a sample of one of them in the barrel aging room. We also heard how one of the original employees (I forget his name) was incredibly invaluable to the company and when it was time for him to move on, they could not bare to see him go and made him part owner and sort of granted him a wish. His request was to have a climbing wall installed, so that's visible in the warehouse that stores most of the ageing barrels/tanks.
It was time to move on and this involved heading outside and walking to another building. This is where you get to see the huge scale of the building. And some cool motorbikes in the employee car park.
It really is starting to look like a large brewery, certainly this image could have been taken at the Guinness factory in Dublin but big as New Belgium is, we are still talking about a craft brewery (US size designation) here so it's only a fraction of the size of somewhere like Coors, an hour or so away in Golden, CO.
I noticed hops growing outside so I asked about them and I was told that they have just started growing them but there is not enough to use in production. I think it's more like a test and eventually they will plant hop gardens like Sierra Nevada and use them in the beer.
We were told about how green they strive to be. Everything from solar energy to using electricity supplies from renewable sources like wind. They even have a water treatment plant on site. There was a solar powered sun sculpture thing outside but due to the hot weather at the time, and all the sun, the motor burned out so it did not spin.
The large building we entered was the bottling and canning plant. The first section was for bottling and it was fun seeing it in action.
|More bottling plant views|
|More bottling plant views|
Next we went to the canning part of the building. We were lead by a cool bottle sculpture which lead us to...
...A Chandelier made of cans of New Belgium beer. Pretty impressive I thought but it all goes to show how the company is all about recycling.
Fat tire was being canned that day and that was the beer we were given at this point. Interestingly, fat tire in a can is unlike the kegged or bottled version in that it's naturally conditioned in the can. That made it our tour guides favourite version of fat tire. It was nice enough but there is something about fat tire I have never liked and I often struggle to finish it.
|Little souvenirs from around the world make up this heart. I found a Euro .20c coin.|
That was it, 90 minutes and a bunch of beers later, the tour was over. It ended spectacularly with me first in line to slide down a twisty slide. I got stuck at the top because my sandals gripped the sides so legs in the air, down I went. It was great fun.
Now it was time to try some more beer so I started ordering samples of which the proceeds go to charity. In fact, specifically if I ordered a sample of fat tire, the proceeds went to the victims of the fires that had devastated parts of Colorado recently. Or was it the firefighters? I don't recall which but the victims make more sense. Having had Fat Tire plenty of times, I opted for some of the more interesting beers.
All the time I was eyeing up the fridge to see what bomber I would take home, but I was pretty sure what it was going to be from the start. I just had to make sure there was nothing else I wanted more.
I used my free pint and bomber voucher on the same beer. I had been given a taste of La Folie by my cousin in law. It was her favourite beer and she loves sour beers as I found out. I had never had it or heard of it before because quite simply, New Belgium unlike Odell's and Great Divide etc, don't make it to Ireland, despite being a much larger brewery with more capacity. I loved that mouthful and I wanted, no I needed more. So I had my pint and brought the bottle of La Folie home with me (only bottle brought home). I will share this with Steve next month during his tasting session before the Hilden Beer Festival.
I also got two growlers to bring to the family reunion. One was of course Ranger IPA (Love it) and the other was 1554 which is a black lager of sorts. I was told it was a lager but it seems to be an ale that uses lager yeast? I'm not sure exactly but either way, it was bloody good.
Also worth a mention was one of the other sour beers I had called Tart Lychee which like La Folie, is one of the lips of faith series. Making a sour beer out of lychees is not something I would likely have thought to try but someone there did and it was lovely. I bought a bottle of this and La Folie for my cousin in law who was our DD for the day and this of course made her very excited.
|As toilets go, this is pretty cool.|
So that was it; as usual, I could have stayed there all day but I still had to get to Odell nearby and also try out Funkwerks. I now seriously want to move to Fort Collins and work at New Belgium. It just seems such a cool place to work and they seem to treat their employees right, even making them part owners. I also love their environmentalism. I might have a dream of having my own brewery but working somewhere like New Belgium might top that. Then again, I only visited for a few hours.
I hope to go back some day though.