Below the surface of Fort Collins’ brewing industry lies a thriving community of home brewers.
On the first Thursday of each month, dozens of local home brewers and craft beer enthusiasts meet to socialize, share and critique each other’s beer.
It is the Liquid Poets Society, Fort Collins’ most prominent home brewing organization.
According to LPS president Jason Connor, virtually every brewery’s roots lie in the tradition of home brewing. Years before New Belgium Brewing Co. began brewing more than a 700,000 barrels of beer a year, the company began as a home brewing project.
“The club has well over 100 paying members and we’re not the only club in town,” Connor said. “It’s a very big community… The best beers I’ve had in my life have been at the home-brewing meetings; the caveat of that is the worst beers I’ve had in my life have been at home-brewing meetings.”
Members bring lunch boxes and mini coolers with samples of their own home brewed creations.
For November’s meeting, LPS member Michael Borden brought one of his favorite witbiers.
“I love these meetings,” Borden said. “Before moving to Fort Collins I lived in a monastery where I wasn’t allowed to drink alcohol, I guess I’m trying to make up for that these past 8 years.”
Connor began home brewing while he was attending Colorado State University as an undergrad.
“I had a friend that did it and I helped him,” Connor said. “I used to have to choke down his batches when nobody else would.”
After graduating with a degree in computer sciences, Connor took a brief hiatus from brewing to focus on his career and family.
When his son turned two, he told his wife he felt like he could relax and that he wanted to get back into brewing beer.
“I went out and got a starter kit and just started home brewing,” Connor said. “That was 17 years ago, my son is about to turn 19.”
Connor describes the local home brewing scene with one word: big.
“It’s a very vivid scene here, very wonderful,” Connor said. “Lots of different people doing it and lots of different styles. The mindshare is amazing among home brewers, the learning curve is greatly reduced when you have like 100 people in a room all sharing what they know.”
The LPS president believes the local industry’s success is partially due to the area’s flourishing home brewing scene. That, and the fact that two of the nation’s largest craft breweries call Fort Collins home, Odell Brewing Company and New Belgium.
At the start of the new year, Connor will be stepping down from his role as LPS president to pursue what he believes is the dream of all home brewers: opening his own brewery.
When local home brewer and LPS member Matt Kriewall told Connor he was looking for a partner to open Rally King Brewing with, Connor leapt at the opportunity.
“We’re in the middle of it right now,” Connor said. “We’ve got a location, we’ve got equipment on its way and we just got our architectural and engineering plans drawn up for the facility … Things are in motion.”
Connor said although Kriewall has only been home brewing for four years, the Fort Collins local has received more than a 100 home brewing medals.
“The folks that I’ve talked to, especially the folks at New Belgium, are absolutely enthusiastic about it, sometimes they’re even more-so than I am,” Connor said. “I’ve gotten neutral reactions too but nobody’s been negative in any way shape or form.”
Snowbank Brewing, which opened in August, came directly out of the LPS according to Dave Rosso the brewery’s owner and brewmaster.
Rosso said he spent six years home brewing before he opened Snowbank.
“I think the bar is set very high in Fort Collins by the other breweries already here,” Rosso said. “For those of us that are coming in late to the game, our beer has to be very good.”
Collegian Reporter Erick Plattner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ErickPlattner.