Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Beer, a Rare Unicorn, and a Rattlesnake

I was never much of a beer drinker before Ryan moved to Colorado. Wine was my alcoholic beverage of choice, with an occasional really cold Yuengling if I mowed on a really hot day. But once I started to explore Fort Collins in 2013, things slowly began to change. The town and many of its citizens pursue beer brewing and drinking with a fervor and intensity I have never seen before. There are at least 20 craft breweries, Beer Week, Tour de Fat (because after beer, bikes matter in Fort Collins), a terrific bar with 100 beers on tap, and Colorado State University offers a B.S. in fermentation science. People in Fort Collins take their beer very seriously, but also with a ton of fun.

New Belgium is one of the breweries I'm most familiar with, mainly because they have a great tour and some wonderful beer. I've visited at least four times, but Justin had never been before, so of course we had to take him.

There are beautiful mosaics on the floor between the brewing vessels in the main brew house,

and foeders built from wood previously used by vineyards to store wine. These are where the bases (Oscar and Felix) used in New Belgium's sour beers are aged.

There is a smaller pilot brewery within the larger brewery, where they experiment and brew surprises.

There is ample opportunity to taste beer throughout the tour, and we got to taste something brand new that's not even for sale yet - Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale. It's a joint venture between New Belgium and Ben and Jerry's that is meant to raise awareness and money to fight climate change. I'll be honest; I thought it was going to taste awful, but it's delicious! Our tour guide said it would be available the third week of October in 47 states. I'm going to buy plenty to drink, and I'm already imagining making some beer bread with it. A loaf with chocolate chips and one with dried cherries ...

Justin is a great son, but he wasn't willing to sneak down into the bottling room to get me some more Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale.

Each tour that I've been on has been slightly different, and this time our tour guide told us about beers she called Rare Unicorns. She said that sometimes the pilot brewery produces a few barrels of something they think might be interesting. These might occasionally be released into the community to see what people think, so she encouraged us to keep our eyes open. Ryan has lived here for more than three years and has never come across one of these special concoctions, so imagine our surprise when we left New Belgium, headed to Choice City for lunch, and spied a Blueberry Oscar Sour. It was excellent, maybe partly because it's fleeting and ephemeral, but truly a delightful Rare Unicorn.

And that promised rattlesnake? While we did some hiking, no rattlesnakes were seen in the wild, but when your brother lives in Texas, you just might get one of his hand-captured and hand-tanned masterpieces for your birthday. (The hole is from where he shot it.)

Better on the wall than in the wild!


  1. What a gorgeous brewery! That tile work is so beautiful!! And, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Beer...that sounds simply amazing! Really. And YES beer bread with chocolate chips and cherries is a fantastic idea! And, as for snakes... I like them neither on the wall or in the wild. Ewww! lol

  2. the brewery looks so pretty! I used to drink beer back in the day but now my meds do not allow for drinking :) I sometimes miss it and will take a sip of my husband's beer.

  3. I would never have purchased chocolate chip cookie dough ale on my own, but with your recommendation I will try it if I have the chance!

  4. I love sour beer so I know that Blueberry Oscar Sour would have been delicious! And I bet the Ben & Jerry's one is great, too. At Smuttynose in NH they have those same type of experimental beers and they come from Smutty Labs. I bought some when I visited but have yet to see any in the stores around here.

  5. I'm going to be looking for that chocolate chip beer (and hope you'll share your beer bread recipe - it sounds really tasty, even at 6:45 am!) ... I scrolled v.e.r.y slowly through the rest of the post - and then really quickly over that last photo. I am glad it was a dead snake. and what a brotherly gift :-)

  6. I LOVE visiting New Belgium whenever I get to Fort Collins. The beer is great, the attitude there is fabulous, and it's such an artful brewery. Love it! We have a beer here in Kalamazoo (One Well Brewing) that mixes two "famous" Kalamazoo treats -- Water Street Coffee and Sweetwater Donuts. It's really interesting -- and tasty! I'm looking forward to trying New Belgium's cookie dough concoction!

    (And that rattlesnake? Wow.)

  7. We didn't take the tour but we did sit in the sun and enjoy a cold one! I'm going to watch for that cookie dough brew but the sour stuff...no thanks! And in that condition...I find that snake beautiful!

  8. When craft brewers first started popping up around SLC I feel in love with beer. I loved trying their new concoctions and unique seasonal offerings. I miss beer SO MUCH. Smith would love FC brew scene. He's made some very brews in the past. I'm going to show him your post!

  9. Oh, those mosaics!! I've only been on one brewery tour and really enjoyed it... would love to tour New Belgium, as I enjoy so many of their brews! I'll have to watch for the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.


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