Most people know Fort Collins as the home of Colorado State University (CSU), a mecca for beer enthusiasts and the jumping off point for outdoor adventure just a short drive from Denver. What many people don’t know is that Fort Collins is also a craft culture hub. This unassumingly, hip northern Colorado college town is home to entrepreneurs and craftspeople at the top of their trade, including craft brewers, third-wave coffee shops, bike manufacturers, homegrown bands, food fanatics, and talented artists.
Craft Coffee Movement in the Capital of Craft Brews
Third-wave coffee makes a splash in Fort Collins with a burgeoning craft community, including Harbinger, Bindle, Flat Hat, Coffee Shrub, Bean Cycle, The Coffee Registry and Everyday Joe’s. Experts say the trend is brewing (no pun intended) much like the Fort Collins beer scene. According to Coffee Shrub’s Christopher Schooley, craft coffee currently holds the same market share as its sudsy counterpart. Why? They’re both accessible, interesting, and delicious.
New Brews Flow in the “Craft Beer Capital of Colorado”
Every new year in Fort Collins brings more than blue skies and beautiful outdoor scenery. The new year often signals the arrival of new craft breweries in this town referred to as the “Craft Beer Capitol of Colorado.” This year is no exception. In 2015-16 we saw a number of breweries come to fruition: Maxline Brewing and Intersect Brewing are the two newest breweries in town with Gilded Goat Brewing on the way, and Rally King Brewing, McClellan’s Brewing Company, Three Four Beer Company and The Jessup Farm Barrel House all opened their doors in fall of 2015. There are now 22 breweries in Fort Collins, with a good chance there will be 23 by the time we finish typing this.
FoCo’s Craft Culture also Breeds Alternative Beverages
The two newest distilleries to open in Fort Collins are Elevation 5003, opened February 2016, and Mobb Mountain, opened April 2016. Elevation 5003 is a a grain to bottle distillery started up by Loren Matthews, a former brewer that made the progression into distilling. Mobb Mountain specializes in making rye gin and whiskey and was started up by co-founders Pat Moriearty and Noah Kroencke and managing partners Daniel Sans Crainte and Dave Grant.
CopperMuse Distillery – One of four distilleries in Fort Collins opened in April of 2014 next door to Pateros Creek Brewing. Customers can tour the distillery and sample spirits in the tasting room, choosing from a menu of nearly 20 cocktails (and growing) showcasing CopperMuse Brightside Vodka and an assortment of infused vodkas – from vanilla to lemon to cucumber. According to owner, Jason Hevelone drinks will change seasonally and as new spirits are added. The tasting room and outdoor patio seat 70, and CopperMuse offers a simple food menu, including salads, starters, sandwiches and scallops wrapped in bacon. The list of cocktails available will expand accordingly.
Feisty Spirits opened in early 2012 as Fort Collins’ first distillery. Five years in the making, Feisty Spirits features whiskey, but also produces a wide variety of distilled spirits through experimentation; many of these will only be available in the tasting room. Owned by David Monahan and Jamison Gulden, Feisty Spirits is a continuation of Monahan’s family legacy focused on producing the highest quality spirits using natural and organic ingredients sourced locally whenever possible. Visit the distillery for a free tour (reservations required) or stop by the tasting room for a dram, a flight, or a mixed cocktail.
Whiskey Belle Ranch
Located just outside of Fort Collins, and nestled alongside the North Fork of the Cache La Poudre River, Whiskey Belle Ranch is a western-style B&B and home to prized Scottish Highland Cattle. Guests to the historic three-bedroom, three-bathroom ranch enjoy views of the Mummy range, an herb garden, a design studio carved out of an old icehouse and a chicken coop repurposed from an old oil tank. Rooms are designed for comfort and relaxation, with thoughtful furnishings and upscale touches. Whiskey Belle Ranch opened to overnight guests this spring, and will offer Highland Grass-fed Beef packages on its website soon. The original homesteader and owner of the ranch was William Calloway.
Making Community Cider from Home-Grown (literally) Apple Trees
Branch Out Cider endeavors to “make something great out of apples grown in yards across northern Colorado.” The company’s goal is to create a community orchard using apples from trees in individual yards. Branch Out Cider is determined to break America’s dependence on foreign apples – more than 80 percent of apple juice consumed in the U.S. comes from another country. The company picks the apples from its trees, preventing rotting apples from sitting in yards, and creates its own Apple Wine. Tree contributors get the first chance to purchase at a discounted price.
Local Sourcing Gets Closer to Home for Fort Collins Brewery Tavern
Fort Collins Brewery Modern Tavern (formerly Gravity 1020), the popular dining addition to the Fort Collins Brewery, has stayed true to its “Farm to Fork” mentality; without a commercial freezer on the premises, they are committed to providing local, fresh fare to appeal to the hungry traveler (note: the restaurant does have a small freezer full of homemade ice cream). Last spring, the restaurant began construction on a new rooftop garden and greenhouse, helping this locally focused eatery source as close to ‘home’ as possible.
From the Garden
The Gardens on Spring Creek are a city-run facility offering education on sustainable horticulture and ecology; providing a setting for enjoyment, renewal and healing; connecting people with nature, each other, and our local place; and encouraging public involvement, partnerships, and community service. The Garden of Eatin’ portion of the gardens has partnered with Odell Brewing Co. to grow hops and other ingredients for a specialty brew. With a Children’s Garden, the Garden of Eatin’, and several special events including ARTiculture: Celebrating Art in the Gardens, Garden of Lights in December and annual plant sales, there is no shortage of offerings for residents and visitors alike.
CSAs: Not Just for Veggies
Beer lovers in Fort Collins can enjoy craft brew at home thanks to the new “farm built” Soul Squared Brewing Company CSA. This CSA – or community-supported agriculture – delivers cases consisting of 22-oz. bombers from farm-to-member on a monthly basis. Co-owner Jay Shambo operates the tiny one-barrel operation in space leased from a local farmer, using hops and other ingredients from the farm to create the brewery’s seasonal options, including a Saison (July), an American Wheat (August), an IPA (September), a Cascadian Dark Ale (October), an Imperial Wit (November) and an Imperial Stout (December). The cost to join is $500 for six months. Shambo, a high school English teacher and homebrewer, hopes to turn his side business into a full-time job. He is a Great American Beer Festival Pro-Am gold medal winner and a Taste of Fort Collins gold medal winner. He has collaborated with local breweries including New Belgium Brewing Company and Odell Brewing Company.
A Burgeoning Band Base
Add bands to the Fort Collins combo of bikes and beer; this northern Colorado college town is quickly becoming recognized as a hot spot for creative music and talented new musicians. Case in point: FoCoMX, an annual festival held in Old Town features more than 200 northern Colorado-based bands at multiple local venues every summer. The festival is in its sixth year and organizers have had to turn down roughly 600 groups per year who’ve applied to play in the past. Looking for the latest local talent? Check out The Armory, The Mishawaka, or any number of college hangout-type venues.