Blessed with 22 breweries and counting, Fort Collins, Col0. is known as the “Napa Valley of Beer.” Chief among its assets is New Belgium Brewing.

Founded in 1991, New Belgium currently operates state-of-the-art, eco-friendly facilities in both Fort Collins and Asheville, N.C., and will debut a brewery on the ground floor of Denver’s Source Hotel this month. New Belgium brews are available in all 50 states and seven countries, and the company sold more than 950,000 barrels of beer in 2017.

Co-founder Jeff Lebesch started the brewery with his wife, former CEO Kim Jordan, following an especially inspiring bike tour through Belgium. There is a romantic thread through New Belgium’s 27-year history, and the magic is still very much alive.

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Take the “foeder forest,” stretching as far as the eye can see, at the Fort Collins location. We hardly believed it was real until we saw it with our own eyes. Along with popular picks like its Fat Tire Amber Ale, Abbey Ale, and Ranger IPA, New Belgium makes amazing sour beers that many beer lovers aren’t privy to (this was us, once).

A pilgrimage to Fort Collins is a must. Here’s the low-down on how to do your New Belgium trip right.

New Belgium Foeder Forest
A man marvels at New Belgium’s “Foeder Forest.” Photo credit: New Belgium Brewing /

Why It’s Famous

New Belgium Brewing is a craft beer pioneer. Now the fourth-largest craft brewing company in the U.S. and the 11th largest overall, it was one of the first Belgian-inspired breweries to open in the U.S. Since its beginnings, it’s been at the forefront of earth-friendly environmentalism. As of December 2012, it’s also been 100 percent employee-owned.

New Belgium is perhaps best known for its flagship, Fat Tire, which introduced a generation of beer drinkers to Belgian-style beer. It’s still one of the most popular craft beers in America today.

They’re also the ones who made those Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream beers.

What to Order

Sours, sours, sours. New Belgium’s Fort Collins brewery houses the largest wood cellar in the U.S. (affectionately called the “Foeder Forest”), and you won’t want to miss it. Small-batch beauties abound. Look for vintage sours like La Folie, a Flanders Oud Bruin; or Felix.

We’re also excited about Sour Saison, New Belgium’s first-ever, year-round traditional sour beer, made by blending a French-style farmhouse ale with a foeder-aged sour golden ale.

If you’re looking for the hoppy stuff, compare the many iterations of Voodoo Ranger IPA, or, for a citrusy crusher, try Citradelic Tangerine IPA, starring Citra hops and tangerine peel.

What to Skip

Fat Tire has our respect, but there are so many special, less accessible beers to try when you’re at the motherland. Your best move is to go for the small-batch stuff and seasonal releases, and enjoy Fat Tire from your porch on another day. Or, another round.

When to Go

“If you’re allergic to crowds, we suggest visiting us on a Tuesday,” New Belgium warns on its website. We recommend planning your trip around the Great American Beer Festival in the fall. Fort Collins is an easy drive from Denver, and the bike-friendly city offers several beer and bike tours that’ll hit stellar breweries (more on that below).

Also: Don’t skip the brewery tour. New Belgium has one of the best in the country. The facility has so many sections, you’ll feel like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory — but in place of candy, you’ll get beers. You’ll also want to book ahead of time, as slots fill up, but a pro tip from Jamie Bogner, co-founder and editorial director of Craft Beer and Brewing magazine (and Fort Collins local), says you can saddle up to the bar and wait for tour no-shows, too.

Where to Stay

Fort Collins hotels include the usual suspects, including several Marriott and Hilton properties.

The Elizabeth launched a property here in December, and its Beer & Bike Suite aims to entertain with a beer pong table, in-room beer tap, stocked beer fridge, and bottle cap backsplash. It’s a favorite of Esquire.

Guests of the Remington Flats can hop on a New Belgium Cruiser for a beer and bike tour that stops at three local breweries, then come home to a boutique studio with amenities including local beer, coffee, and tea.

New Belgium Brewing, 500 Linden St., Fort Collins, Colo.