Front Range: Adventures in Brewing!
I have visited Denver before for work and never been very inspired by the place. It seemed just like Everyplace, USA, dominated by urban sprawl, characterless suburbs and not a whole lot else. So why did we come visit during our Colorado summer? Why not just stay in the mountains surrounded by killer scenery and towns with charm and character?
Beer - that's why. We like to visit breweries and some of our favorites are in this area so we decided it was worth a week or two based around Boulder and Fort Collins to explore them. Our first stop was at Boyd Lake State Park. Not the most inspiring state park we have stayed in but it is fairly near Fort Collins, which we really loved. The town has real character, somewhere that would be really fun to spend more time in. New Belgium is the flagship brewery in the city and we had heard the tour was fantastic. Fortunately we were also tipped off that it was booked up for weeks in advance so luckily we already had secured our tickets on line.
The tour was every bit as good as was described, and the company is a model of sustainable capitalism that should be held up as an example to all. We were so impressed by them as a business. As they have grown they have not forgotten their roots or lost their moral compass. Leading the way in employee ownership and environmentally-friendly production. And the generous beer tastings on the tour reminded us why they are so successful in the first place. They make great beer!
We spent the second week in the area at the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont, Colorado. An even less inspiring campground, but walking distance to one of our favorite breweries in the US, Left Hand Brewing. Their Milk Stout Nitro is stuff of legend and we spent a boozy afternoon in the tasting room trying all the wonderful beers they had on offer.
Longmont runs a bus around all their brewery locations, fearing that was too dangerous for us, we decided instead to take a slightly more self-righteous approach and cycle from the campground to visit several other spots in town. Our first stop was Oskar Blues. Of course we were familiar with their staples and you'll often find a Dale's Pale Ale in our fridge, but we recently started to appreciate their Mexican style lager - Beerito as a light refreshing summer starter beer.
From Oskar Blues we cycled along the St Vrain Greenway, which is a great cycle path along Left Hand Creek. Unfortunately much of it was damaged by recent floods and is still in the process of being rebuilt. Still we managed to get back into downtown Longmont, mostly avoiding the roads, with only a few detours still in place. Our next stop was Wibby Brewing. There was a great summer atmosphere on the crowded patio and we really enjoyed the German style beers on sale here.
From here we cycled up and over the railway tracks to Grossen Bart for our final stop. Much more low-key than all the other breweries in town, they love hipster facial hair and have an awesome retro Pinball machine. A great final stop on our mini-tour.
Our final path home on the St Vrain Greenway took us past Left Hand Brewing. We managed to resist the gravitational pull, tempting us back for just one more beer fearing a return visit would leave us incapable of getting our bikes home. Instead we made it safely home, with tired legs and happy bellies full of delicious Colorado beer.