First stop was the Horse & Dragon, a four week old family business housed in an old aeroplane hanger.
Tim Cochran, the founder, was stood behind the bar pouring pints with his daughter. He named the brewery after his and his wife Carol’s Chinese horoscope symbols.
We perched on one of the reclaimed wooden stools to sip through my overflowing tasting tray – from the light citrus Almost-Summer through to the rich Sad Panda Stout.
If you go, make sure you try the Whistle Blast Honey Brown. I could drink it all day long.
Through the large glass windows, huge brewing tanks stood silently fermenting the next batch. A world map was taped to the wall inviting visitors to mark their hometown with sticker. I was proud to add the very first one to England.
Next stop, Odell Brewing Company, the second oldest microbrewery in Colorado and by far one of the largest. Unlike the Horse & Dragon, this place has been running since 1989 and now supplies 11 states with ales and IPAs.
It’s now expanded to house a mid-sized brewery with a huge tap room for visitors to try their wares. I made my way towards the terrace with my second tasting tray and a fat cheese-wurst hot dog. When in Rome, right?
“Travel and pasteurisation ruin the taste, which is why you’ll never see a bottle in the UK”
Odell’s beer is cold-filtered which means don’t pasteurise their beer like major brands. It has to be kept cold and drunk within three to six months of bottling. Pasteurisation combined with travel can ruin the taste, which is why you’ll only see a handful of bottles in the UK. Those with more hops travel better.
Next, a 30 minute whistle-stop tour around the brewery, guided by one of the brewer’s wives. Breweries are very much a family affair here. This was followed by a pint of their famous 90 Shilling beer, picked straight off the bottling line.
Sustainability and preserving the environment is high on everyone’s priority list in Fort Collins for obvious reasons. Odell’s use solar panels on their roof to contribute to their electricity usage. They also now don’t make a single landfill contribution by using as much recyclable materials as possible.
Finally, we finished our day at Equinox Brewing, a hippy-style tap house with a small brewery stashed in a garage at the back.
Local bands play on the terrace during the summer evenings. The beer “menu” changes on a weekly basis, so there’s endless room to come back and taste more.
“By now, you’ve probably worked out which one you like, right?” said Bob. It turns out I’ve a new-found love for brown ale. Eclipse Brown it is, then.
We sit on the terrace with John, a colleague of Bob’s, his brother Kevin and baby Patrick, basking in the sun and learning more about biking in Fort Collins and a surprising local interest in the English premiership football (yes, real football!)
By the end of the day, I clocked around an hour riding and five hours drinking beer. Just the way it should be in my book. “Here you can be who you want to be,” says Bob. “There’s no ego or pressure.”
That’s the beauty of life in Colorado. It’s shaped by their love of the outdoors and their taste of the good things in life: friends, biking and a decent pint of ale. It’s not like America at all, and I think that’s why I like it.