For many, Fort Collins is best known as a bustling college town that’s home to Colorado State University (Go Rams!), nestled near the glorious foothills of Northern Colorado. Here, endless outdoor activities are right outside your doorstep and a historic downtown area, called Old Town, provides eclectic nightlife, shopping and dining. It's a community that's passionate about its bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly environment, a refreshing contrast to Houston’s traffic woes, and even more passionate about craft beer.
Despite its outdoorsy appeal, Fort Collins is typically not the first place people think of visiting when in Colorado—most are understandably drawn to the glitzy mountain resort towns of Aspen, Breckenridge, Vail and so on. But for beer-lovers everywhere, Fort Collins is well worth the hour-long drive north of Denver. With over 20 craft and micro breweries and only about 160,000 residents, this town could easily be considered a hidden beer mecca for thirsty travelers.
In those breweries, Fort Collins produces over a million barrels of beer yearly, which doesn’t even include the nearby Budweiser facility’s even more massive output. CSU also offers a highly unique degree program in Fermentation Science and Technology along with extremely competitive brewing classes, educating the next generation of brewmasters and further enriching the town’s rich beer culture.
The town even lends itself to easy brewery tours, with many of the breweries in close proximity to one another, all accessible by bike trails and those pedestrian-friendly streets. For the ultimate tour, rent a bicycle in town (weather permitting) and check out our list of standout Fort Collins breweries below:
New Belgium is the fourth largest craft brewery in the U.S. and is probably best known nationwide for their Fat Tire Amber Ale. Inspired by a beer tour of Belgium (which, naturally, involved riding a mountain bike with “fat tires”), founder Jeff Lebesch was inspired to start home brewing in his basement. In 1991, New Belgium was established as a commercial brewery in Fort Collins. Today, it's 100 percent company-owned and employees can call one another co-owners instead of co-workers. The rich culture and history of this brewery is certainly what makes it stand out amongst the competition, and what makes its brewery tour so engaging for visitors.
What to try:
- Sunshine Wheat
- Ranger IPA
- 1554 Black Lager
- Abbey Belgian Style Dubbel
- La Folie Sour Brown Ale
Founder Doug Odell’s experience in the beer industry dates back to the late 1970s in San Francisco, but a trip to the small breweries of the U.K. inspired him to push his passion for beer into the commercial realm. Searching the country for potential brewery locations, Doug and his wife decided on a 1915 grain elevator in Fort Collins. Since opening in 1989, Odell’s current home is only a few blocks away from that original grain elevator, and recent expansions to its tap room have made it one of the top Fort Collins hangouts. The outdoor seating area is prime real estate on busy days, filled with live music, food trucks, games and a cozy fire pit for crisp Colorado evenings.
What to try:
- Easy Street Wheat
- Myrcenary Double IPA
- Cutthroat Porter
- 5-Barrel Pale Ale
CooperSmith’s opened its doors in 1989 and is the oldest operating brewery in Fort Collins, beating Odell Brewing Co. by just two weeks. What sets CooperSmith’s apart in a town overflowing with options is that it’s so much more than a brewery—it’s also a full-service restaurant, pub and a pool hall. This complete package resides in two neighboring buildings, one dubbed “pub-side” that offers a slightly more upscale environment and menu, and the other “pool-side,” which is a more casual bar experience with plenty of pool tables and creative pub food. The patio areas are where visitors can enjoy live music from Old Town Square as well as first-class people watching. CooperSmith’s is constantly brewing new varieties, so many of their beers are seasonal and small-batch, although a handful of longtime favorites are almost always on the menu.
What to try:
- Albert Damm Bitter
- Poudre Pale Ale
- Signda’s Green Chili
- Mountain Avenue Wheat
This brewery’s name is inspired by the summer and winter equinoxes, two days of the year where light and dark meet, denoting changing seasons and reflecting on the past and future. The intersection of these dualities mirror the careful balance required while brewing the perfect beer. Since 2010, Equinox has occupied a cozy, Old Town-adjacent space where patrons can enjoy a frequently-changing beer menu as well as live music in the tap house or outdoors in the hidden beer garden. They even craft their own root beer and soda in-house, so there are beverage options for everyone. To top off a visit to this quirky brewery, you might even witness an employee transporting kegs on Equinox’s very own custom-built keg tricycle, which is fitting for the eco-friendly, bike-obsessed Fort Collins crowd.
What to try:
- Space Ghost IPA
- Truffle Shuffle Nitro Chocolate Porter
- Supergiant Imperial Hefeweizen
- Bearcrusher Russian Imperial Stout (featuring an impressive 10.75% ABV)
One of Fort Collins’s newest additions, Prost Brewing opened its doors earlier this year. Unlike the other featured breweries, this tap room is an extension of its original location in Denver where all of their beer is currently brewed. Prost does have strong ties to the Fort Collins community, though, as multiple members of its ownership team are CSU alumnus. One element that makes this German-inspired brewery unique is the entrance—it’s only accessible to the public through an alleyway, one of the first of its kind in Old Town, giving it an exclusive speakeasy vibe. Another iconic element is Prost’s Bavarian-themed tap room, which provides patrons with the easiest way to experience a German pub without hopping on a long flight to Europe.
What to try:
- Prost Kölsch
- Prost Pils
- Weißbier Bavarian Style Wheat Ale
- Altfränkisches Dunkel Bier
This family-run brewery was conceptualized in early 2013 (the tail-end of the year of the dragon) and officially opened in 2014 (the year of the horse), hence its Chinese calendar-inspired name. Although its location is slightly off the beaten path, Horse and Dragon’s bright-red building is hard to miss and sits in front of what was once the Fort Collins Downtown Airport. Horse and Dragon is also committed to sustainability—this year they became an EPA Green Power Partner business and currently obtain 100 percent of their energy through wind power. With an extraordinary passion for bringing together community, great beer and environmentally-friendly practices, it’s easy to see why this brewery is a rising favorite amongst locals.
What to try:
- Whistle Blast Honey Brown Ale
- Sad Panda Coffee Stout
- Lulo Gold Ale
- Fort Kölnz Kölsch Style Ale