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Sampling New Belgium Suds

Click on the image below to launch a photo slide show from the New Belgium brewery tour.

Last Friday, I headed to Fort Collins, Colorado, to take out-of-town visitors on a New Belgium brewery tour. The tour begins on an outdoor patio, where our guide Emma hands out tasting glasses of New Belgium’s Abbey beer, a Belgian ale. She leads us in a retro-nasal tasting: Inhale. Sip, swish, and swallow. Exhale through the nose for a full flavor profile. I taste banana bread, my first surprise of the day.


There are more inside, including the bouldering wall, pool table, and ping-pong table I spot throughout the facility for employee use. And the DIY décor, from mobiles made of disco balls and bike wheel rims to can-deliers and chairs assembled from rims and used inner tubes. Sustainability colors more than tchotchkes, however. Beer bottles are sourced locally (made in Windsor, Colorado). Look past the volleyball courts behind the bottling plant. You’ll find holding pools where production wastewater is treated with microbes, releasing methane gas that creates energy to power a percentage of the brewery’s electrical needs.

And, of course, the beer. Over the free, 90-minute tour, we taste five: Abbey (with its hint of banana bread); the lemony Biere de Mars (which we sipped by the mash tanks); a black ale called 1554 (served in a forest of towering French wine barrels called foeders); New Belgium’s fall seasonal ale, Red Hoptober (served while overlooking the bottling line); and Shift—the latest release, a pale lager—to cap things off.

We end the tour by whirling down a slide to the bar. Because it’s Friday afternoon, there’s no rush to leave. We sample Asian dishes from the food truck parked outside, taste a few more brews balanced with berry-infused seltzer water made on site, and try to discern the rules of a curling/shuffleboard hybrid game outside. When we manage to say adieu, it’s with a bevy of growlers and 22-ounce bottles in tow. —Olivia Dwyer

If you go: The New Belgium tour is a hot ticket; reserve your spot well in advance at newbelgium.com. Want to make a day of it? Borrow wheels from the Fort Collins Bike Library (for a $10 donation) and check with Visit Fort Collins for a full list of local breweries to plan a human-powered brewery tour around town.

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