A trip to New Belgium in Fort Collins, Col0., is unforgettable for many beer lovers. Founded in 1991, the destination includes a mosaic-clad brewhouse, numerous bars, and a maze-like foeder-filled taproom.
Its East Coast location is equally impressive. The facility launched in Asheville, N.C., in 2016, equipped with a 6,000-square-foot tasting room decked out in decor designed by local artists.
Better yet, the company produces a wealth of beer styles spanning sours to amber ales, hazy IPAs to witbiers, and even a gluten-reduced pale ale.
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Thirsty for more? Here are 11 other things to keep in mind about the craft beer pioneer.
New Belgium started small and made it big.
The brewery was founded in 1991 by then-husband-and-wife Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan, who aimed to bring Belgian-quality beer to the U.S. At the time, “craft beer” was not in America’s lexicon. Now, New Belgium is the country’s fourth-largest craft brewery and distributes beer in all 50 states.
It began with a bike ride.
In 1988, New Belgium co-founder Jeff Lebesch took a bicycle ride through Belgium that changed the course of his life. On his trip, he tasted a variety of Belgian ales and was enamored with their aromas and flavors. (These beers were very different from the American industrial lagers back home.) An avid homebrewer, Lebesch took detailed notes about the beers he tasted. Three years later, New Belgium was born. That journal and other memorabilia from his journey are still on display in the Fort Collins brewery today.
New Belgium has made beer with Ben & Jerry’s.
In 2015 and 2016, New Belgium teamed up with fellow B Corp business Ben & Jerry’s to make ice cream-inspired beers. The two flavors were Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale and Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale. The beers were sweet, but the collaboration was sweeter: A portion of proceeds was donated to Protect Our Winters, an organization that combats climate change.
Its co-founder is a ‘world-changing woman.’
Kim Jordan is one of the original women leaders of the American craft beer industry. As New Belgium’s co-founder, former CEO of 15 years, and current executive chair, she continues to strengthen the industry as a speaker and trailblazer today.
In January 2018, Jordan was honored among Conscious Company Media’s 30 World-Changing Women. In April 2019, she’ll be a featured speaker at the Craft Brewers Conference, the industry’s largest gathering, hosted by the Brewers Association.
A Fat Tire made it famous.
New Belgium’s flagship beer, and current calling card, is its Fat Tire amber ale, a Belgian-inspired brew that many beer drinkers and makers credit for opening their palates to more flavorful beer.
Fat Tire is still a top seller today, but New Belgium’s lineup has since expanded to many more styles and brands, including its Voodoo IPA series, and a heralded collection of foeder-aged Belgian-inspired sour ales, like La Folie.
Its wheels keep on turning.
In December, New Belgium launched the Up Next Series, a rotator series reflecting current industry trends. First up? VinePair’s favorite fashionable beer of 2018, Brut IPA. It’s available nationally while supplies last.
New Belgium ‘never sold out.’
Although it’s been rumored that the brewery was going to sell to Anheuser-Busch, in the words of New Belgium co-founder Kim Jordan, “unlike many beer companies, we never sold out to a bigger company.” She speaks her truth: The brewery is 100 percent employee-owned.
Its Fort Collins facility has an indoor forest.
Visitors who opt in for a brewery tour may have to wait a few minutes, but this waiting room is one you won’t want to leave. The taproom doubles as an oak-aging room, where floor-to-ceiling barrels, called foeders, are funkifying beer while you drink.
It reduced gluten without decreasing quality.
New Belgium’s gluten-sensitivity-friendly Glütiny Pale Pale is brewed with grains, then uses an enzyme that breaks down the proteins that are difficult for gluten-sensitive drinkers to consume. Although the beer can’t be labeled “gluten-free,” it meets FDA guidelines of achieving under 20 parts per million gluten.
It takes sustainability seriously.
The roofs of New Belgium’s packaging hall in Fort Collins and taproom in Asheville are covered in solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. The latter’s PV array earned the building LEED Platinum Certification.
New Belgium’s North Carolina brewery also captures rainwater for brewing, and diverts 99.9 percent of its waste from landfills, which earned it Platinum Certified Zero Waste Business status.
Working there is certifiably awesome.
New Belgium has been named one of the “Best Places to Work” by Outside Magazine for 10 years running. Perks include the employee profit sharing plan, an on-site medical clinic, and a Fat Tire Cruiser bike on employees’ first anniversaries. On fifth anniversaries, employees are granted a week-long trip to Belgium. It all comes full circle.