Ashvegas asked the small breweries and brewpubs of Fort Collins, New Belgium’s Colorado home, what they thought of the company.
We asked questions like, What can Asheville expect? What can our beer scene expect? What’s the worst part about sharing the scene with a craft beer behemoth?
We talked to New Belgium’s competitors on the Fort Collins brewing scene: Brew pubs and local, independent craft breweries that are the Asheville Brewing, Green Man, Highland Brewing and Pisgah of New Belgium’s Colorado home since the early ’90s.
Response was prompt and often passionate. Since we talked exclusively to brewers and brewery owners, we focused more on New Belgium’s place in the beer scene than in the local community as a whole. But still, a larger picture emerged.
We didn’t set out to write a puff piece. But sometimes, nobody has anything bad to say.
Yes, there are serious concerns here in Asheville over New Belgium’s new manufacturing plant, particularly over traffic demands on the already congested Haywood Road, currently scheduled to be a major delivery route over the next decade. As a community we need to respond, keeping local leaders accountable about neighborhood health and healthy growth as well as revenue and jobs.
Fort Collins, population 143,000 or so, isn’t Asheville, and doesn’t seem to have faced our infrastructure issues. But here’s what select members of its brewing community think of New Belgium.
From Steve Jones, owner of Pateros Creek Brewing Company in Fort Collins
When you meet New Belgium employees, you’re like, Why are these people so nice? You want to do a little poking and prodding, see what’s behind all that. But eventually you realize that this company was built on a different structure than anything you’ve ever heard of. You realize it’s all about the employees, and how excited they are about what they do.
You think, this is unreal. But that’s the kind of company they are. They are serious about letting people follow their passion.
New Belgium gives back to the community. It’s one of the reasons I even opened a brewery. They’re like a big brother. I’m like, Can you find me some grain for this? And they’ll help you out. They don’t look at other breweries as a competitor.
Asheville can expect a company that will be part of the community, involved with everything it can. They hire people involved with the community and ask them, What do you need?
It seems like a grandiose thing to say, but they want to make everything better.
If New Belgium has done anything for Fort Collins, it’s made it better. It hasn’t done anything else than make it better.
The only drawback is that they’ve been here a long time, and they take up tap space. That makes it a tight commodity. You have to convince the owner that you’re as good as New Belgium. And you know, that’s not even really a drawback. It makes you a better brewer. You want to match yourself to that quality of beer.
You guys are lucky to have such a great company coming to your area. Welcome them. They want to be part of Asheville as much as Asheville wants them.
From Amanda Johnson-King of the family-owned Odell Brewing Co. of Fort Collins
We’ve been in Fort Collins since 1989, and NBB opened up a few years later. They’ve been our neighbors for nearly 20 years. We have a great relationship (as do most craft breweries). You’ll often find their folks in our tap room and ours in theirs.
Our production teams also help support each other if one of us runs out of parts or materials. We’ve also collaborated on many events and charitable projects like the Sustainable Living Fair.
From Dwight Hall, head brewer and managing partner, CooperSmith’s Pub & Brewing of Fort Collins
NBB is the real deal. Their success speaks to what good brewers they are. They treat their employees great. They are a benevolent member of the community and have been very open to helping other brewers in Fort Collins. Honestly, you would be hard pressed to find many detractors of NBB in Fort Collins.
From Brad Lincoln, president of Funkwerks saison brewery of Fort Collins
When we first started as home brewers, we met New Belgium and said we were a saison brewery. They invited us over. And they actually put our beer through their tasting panel, and gave us feedback.
Now they sell us keg shells practically at scrap value. They’re really churning through wooden barrels, which they sell to you at a discount, at about one third the price they would ordinarily be.
The beer-drinking public will see more beer events the whole town gathers around, like the Tour de Fat.
The best thing is the camaraderie with the employees. They’re buying our beer for their Christmas party, buying some other local beers for their Christmas party. Barrels and kegs are great, but I really like the bond between our employees.
There really are no drawbacks. It’s been pretty positive. They’re pretty big on being members of the community.