Few people will argue that Northern Colorado is an important hub in the US craft beer scene. In fact, according to the Brewers Association database, there are 15 breweries in Fort Collins, 7 in Loveland, and 6 in Greeley and Windsor along with over a dozen more listed as in the planning stages. A total of 42.
The brewing scene here, however, is not yet even 30 years old.
Perhaps to the craft drinkers’ chagrin,the first brewery to establish the area as a brewing centerpiece was Anheuser-Busch in 1988. Their massive brewing operation is a scientific feat of engineering, and serves most of the Western United States with the various brands under the AB Inbev umbrella.
Craft breweries weren’t far behind, though, as the second-oldest craft brewer in the state, Odell Brewing Company, opened in 1989 (10 years after the Boulder Beer Company). CooperSmith’s opened the same year, in Ft. Colins.
In 1991, what some may consider the flagship Colorado craft brewery, New Belgium, opened. Currently the 4th largest craft brewery in the country according to the Brewers Association, New Belgium produced nearly 1 million barrels of beer in 2014 and is available in 38 states, British Columbia, and Washington, DC. Their new East Coast brewing operations will open early next year.
Another long-standing brewing icon in Fort Collins is C.B. and Potts. Originally opened in 1974 as the Deluxe Tavern, C.B. and Potts began brewing beer in 1996. C.B. and Potts now has 7 locations in Colorado as well as locations under their sister brand The RAM in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. As many brewpubs have come and gone, C.B. and Potts stands as an icon, producing beers which have won over 100 medals at the North American Brewers Association and Great American Beer Festival combined.
The Fort Collins brewery opened from the ashes of the defunct HC Berger Brewery (1992-2002) in 2003. FCB originally only brewed German style lagers, but only a year later, the brewers diversified their line to include a variety of styles. FCB has managed to expand its operation in the past 5 years, including a new, state-of-the-art brew house, moving from the building currently housing Funkwerks.
Other Northern Colorado communities such as Greeley, Loveland, and Windsor offer a contribution to the scene which is on par with Fort Collins. In 1994 the Union Colony Brewery opened in Greeley. The early 2000s economic downturn proved too much for the brewpub, and in 2004 UCB shut its doors. In 2006, however, Crabtree Brewing Company opened in Greeley and has delivered GABF medal-winning beers in the years since. Greeley now has 5 breweries, and Wiley Roots, opened in 2013, won a bronze medal for their Super 77 Wheat just weeks after opening. Other recent additions to Greeley’s brewing scene include Weldwerks, Broken Plow, and Brix Brewery and Taphouse.
Loveland is putting itself on the map with Grimm Brothers (opened in 2010) being the largest, focusing on German style, along with Loveland Aleworks, Verboten, Crow Hop, Buckhorn, and Big Beaver. These breweries, along with Windsor’s High Hops brewery (which offers some beers brewed with their own hops), stand firmly within the fold as some of the best breweries in the region, if not the nation.
Northern Colorado is experiencing a new wave of brewing. The last five years have seen a huge surge in brewery openings. Some are dedicated to certain styles of brewing, like Funkwerks’ dedication to farmhouse style ales. Some are pushing the envelope with unconventional ingredients such as Black Bottle’s seasonal Count Chocula Stout.
With more breweries opening every year, it’s clear that Northern Colorado will continue to offer the best beer in the world. Our continued support of local breweries will cheer on our local economy and firmly place Northern Colorado in the annals of craft beer lore.