Previously in this series of articles covering our return visit to Colorado we were in Longmont, our third destination was the city of Fort Collins to the North. Here we braved the cold and snow to visit a variety of breweries both large and small including the likes of Funkwerks, Fort Collins Brewery, Equinox Brewing, Odell Brewing, Paternos Creek Brewing, CooperSmith’s Pub & Brewery, and Black Bottle Brewing.
Funkwerks are located on the north-east edge of Fort Collins in an industrial area. They are a small brewery with a big reputation having won 2 x Gold and 1 x Silver medals at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in 2011 & 2012 which has brought them plenty of attention for their Saisons and Sours.
Having opened in 2010 they use a 15 bbl system and in 2013 produced about 1400 bbls of beer. With new fermenters they are anticipating production to increase to around 2500 bbls in 2014. All of this from a company of 8 people which means that everything involves multi-tasking and being very hands-on.
Their small yet colorful tasting room was full for the time we were there and our first sample included their main beers:
- White – 5.1% (unusual with ginger & no detectable coriander taste)*
- Saison – 6.8% (gentle zing, dry & clean finish)*
- Nelson Sauvin – 7.6% (pungent aroma & intense taste from New Zealand Nelson hops)
- Quad – 11.0% (bit syrupy, belgian yeast flavor, slight high alcohol)
- Solenna – 6.3% (hop aroma, brett zing on front of tongue, taste lingers)
We then followed this up with:
* denotes our favorites in the above samplers.
Fort Collins Brewery (FCB)
Our next destination was Fort Collins Brewery which was on the same road heading back into town. There are two parts to this location; Gravity 1020 at the front which is their ‘Modern Tavern’ and the Tap Room at the side which is attached to the brewery itself. We opted to go to the Tap Room and started with a sampler of FCB’s Full-Time Beers:
- 1900 Amber Lager – 4.7%, 31 IBU’s, 6 SRM (smooth not bitter)
- Major Tom’s American Wheat – 5.2%, 34 IBU’s, 5 SRM (unusual due to the pomegranate)
- Red Banshee – 5.3%, 33 IBU’s, 22 SRM (Amber Ale that is malty with bitter after-taste)
- Rocky Mountain IPA – 6.2%, 81 IBU’s, 12 SRM (pleasant hop flavor)
- Chocolate Stout – 5.3%, 33 IBU’s, 43 SRM (some smoke, roasty bitterness, coffee notes)*
Note: SRM is the color, the higher the number the darker the beer.
Next we took a tour round the brewery to see both their 7 bbl test system (which included a Lauter Grant) and their recently installed 50 bbl main system which came from Germany. Currently FCB are producing around 15k bbl’s per year and have been going for 10 years (3 years at their current location), their previous location is half a mile up the road. On the tour we sampled a Black IPA which was under production and in addition to the brew systems we also saw the CIP (Clean In Place) system, depalletizer, bottling line, and the fermenters. Back in the tasting room we had some food which was fantastic as well as a sampler of their Seasonals:
- Klausfest Bier – 5.5%, 25 IBU’s, 8 SRM (light in color, nice malt/caramel balance)*
- Wet Hop Harvest Ale – 7.0%, 40 IBU’s, 14 SRM (Pale Ale that is creamy, roasty with some hop character)
- Kvass – 3.8%, 6 IBU’s, 4 SRM (bready)
- Double Chocolate Stout – 8.1%, 48 IBU’s, 62 SRM (bitter & strong)
- Doppel Bock – 7.8%, 34 IBU’s, 11 SRM (not true to style due to use of beachwood smoked malt)
- Rauchbier – 6.0%, 20 IBU’s, 6 SRM (made with beachwood smoked malt)
- Flemish Red Sour Ale – 5.7%, 5 IBU’s, 26 SRM (good example of style)*
* denotes our favorites in the above samplers.
Our final port of call on Day 1 in Fort Collins was Equinox Brewing which is more of a brew-bar, on the evening we visited a duo on guitar and drums were playing and the place had a good atmosphere. Equinox offer two samplers; their standard beers and their specialty sampler, which was all IPA’s, so we opted for the former:
- Vandelay Dortmunder Export – 5.25%, 20 IBU’s (bit malty)
- Picasso Pale Ale – 5.2%, 41 IBU’s (lots of citrus hop flavor)
- Eclipse Brown Ale – 5.25%, 24 IBU’s (some bitterness & roasty malt flavors, good body)
- Borealis Winter Ale – 7.5%, 30 IBU’s (bitter, no spice, hoppy)
- Sungrazer Scotch Ale – 9.5%, 25 IBU’s (caramel nose, caramel & toffee flavor)*
- Sunset Stout – 5.0%, 30 IBU’s (some smokiness, cocoa bitterness, bit thin)
* denotes our favorite in the above sampler.
There was an added bonus when we passed Equinox Brewing the following morning – there is a Home Brew shop next door AND it was open on a Sunday!
After a visit to the homebrew shop to grab a vile of White Labs Edinburgh yeast for an upcoming home brew batch we headed on over to Odell Brewing which is one of the larger breweries in Fort Collins. Odell are located in a modern facility which has undergone four expansions over the years with the last one being completed in 2010. Here we grabbed ourselves a beer each to take on the next upcoming tour:
On the tour we were first shown around the modern brew house which is a 100 bbl system from Germany and consists of a Hot Liquor Tank (HLT), a Mash Tun, a combined Lauter Tun & Holding Tank, a Boil Kettle, a Hop Back, and a Whirl Pool. The Hop Back is used to add hop aroma to the wort as it leaves the Boil Kettle and passes through a vessel holding whole leaf hops. The Whirl Pool uses centrifugal force of around 8G’s to filter out the solids from the wort prior to it going through the heat exchangers and into the fermenters.
Outside the building are 400 bbl fermenters which are jacketed so that they can be heated or cooled depending on the time of year. This is necessary so that the yeast can be kept at a controlled temperature during the fermentation process.
For Odell’s barrel ageing program they use American Oak as it has a coarser grain than French Oak which helps impart barrel flavors into the beer in a shorter period of time. In addition to the main brew house Odell have an old 50 bbl system which is no longer used and a 5 bbl pilot system which is used for experimental batches.
After the tour we sampled some more beers:
- Wellspring Saison Ale – 6.6% (dry-hopped with 2 west coast hops, not in photo)*
- Cutthroat Porter on Nitro – 5.1%, 17 IBU’s (bitter & smooth)*
- Oh My Gord – 5.5% (Pumpkin Porter with high CO2, the pumpkin is smoked and has a slightly sweet taste)
* denotes our favorites in the above drinks.
Paternos Creek Brewing
Next we moved on to Pateros Creek Brewing at the north end of Downtown Fort Collins. This brewery opened in June 2011 and serves largely British-style beers. We chose to try the following sampler:
- Car 21 – 4.5%, 28 IBU’s (a Best Bitter)*
- Cache La Porter – 5.0%, 24 IBU’s (a Brown Porter)*
- Outpost Scotch Ale – 7.0%, 29 IBU’s (a Wee Heavy)
- Owl Canyon – 6.0%, 23.6 IBU’s (a Pumpkin Ale)
* denotes our favorites from this sampler.
CooperSmith’s Pub & Brewing
In the middle of Downtown Fort Collins is CooperSmith’s Pub & Brewery which also has a pool room across the alley. CooperSmith’s is a popular brewpub but we managed to score ourselves a place at the bar so we could have some food as well as enjoy the following sampler (left to right in photo):
- Black Powder Barley Wine – 11.0%, 52 IBU’s (English-style)*
- Not Brown Ale – 5.4%, 18 IBU’s (English-style)
- Columbine Kolsch – 5.3%, 18 IBU’s (clean flavor)
- Horsetooth Stout on Nitro – 6.2%, 33 IBU’s (bitter flavor)
- Punjabi Pale Ale – 6.8%, 64 IBU’s (cask conditioned)
- Existential Porter – 6.2%, 33 IBU’s (cask conditioned which gave smooth mouthfeel)*
- Jingle Ale – 7.3%, 24 IBU’s (Christmas Ale with spices)*
* denotes our favorites from this sampler.
Black Bottle Brewery
Our final brewery visit was Black Bottle Brewery which is located in a strip mall just around the corner from our hotel. Black Bottle have a 7 bbl system and have been around for about 1 year. We started with the following sampler:
- Social Insecurity – 4.9%, 31 IBU’s (Belgian session ale)
- Panty Dropper Ale (PDA) – 8.7%, 24 IBU’s (some sweetness)
- Holy Shit Double Wit – 9.8%, 39 IBU’s (with ginger)
- I’ll Sais It’s On V3 – 7.3% (Saison with Brett)*
- I’ll Sais It’s On V2 – 5.6% (straight Saison – not in photo)
Our second sampler included the following from both Black Bottle and some other breweries/meaderies:
- Liquid Folk Metal – 9.3% (includes rye, though hard to detect, and aged in whiskey barrels)*
- Peachy King by Funkwerks – 8.3 (nice sour balance)
- Mango Nectar by Redstone Meadery – 8.0% (honey aroma & flavor)
* denotes our favorites from the above samplers.
In our next article we will cover our final destination on our trip to the City of Denver to the South of Fort Collins.
If you would like to discuss, or have any questions on, this article then please use the Comments section below? We would also like to hear your opinions on the beers and breweries mentioned above?