Fort Collins breweries tap into the community

Erick Plattner

Fort Collins is undeniably a craft beer hub. With 16 different breweries in operation and more in the works, the city now has a brewery for every Fort Collins resident.

Since April 2010, nine new breweries have opened in Fort Collins, including five in the past 10 months.

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While New Belgium Brewing Company and Odell Brewing Company are certainly Fort Collins’ largest craft breweries, there are more than a dozen others scattered around town.

For example, Funkwerks, which recently took home a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival for Raspberry Provincial, their Belgian-style fruit beer. This saison-focused brewery began as a home brewing project in 2002. A decade later it was awarded the title of “Small Brewing Company of the Year” at the 2012 GABF.

“Fort Collins’ brewing scene is hopping,” said Carol Cochran, co-owner of Horse & Dragon Brewing Company. “We have traveled all over the place and sampled craft beer everywhere we go. I can vouch that we are spoiled here in Fort Collins.”

Horse & Dragon's cavalry, from left to right: Tim Cochran, Linsey Cornish, Abby Derr, Carol Cochran and Chad Laszlo.
Horse & Dragon’s cavalry, from left to right: Tim Cochran, Linsey Cornish, Abby Derr, Carol Cochran and Chad Laszlo.

In March, Cochran and her husband opened Horse & Dragon, making a 20-year dream a reality.

“The established breweries have been incredibly welcoming and supportive of us,” Cochran said. “The community is very, very open but also very respectful of each brewery’s individuality.”

Whether it is due to the established home brewing scene or the presence of two microbrewing pioneers, the local craft beer market is growing faster than ever and does not appear to be slowing down.

“I would say there are a lot of reasons, one of them is the great water here,” said Dave Rosso, owner of Snowbank Brewing, the newest microbrewery to open in Fort Collins. “There are a lot of people here who really enjoy craft beer and a lot of people that are very passionate about it.”

Kirk Lombardi, co-owner of Zwei Brüder Brewing, a German and Bavarian style brewery that opened in August, said Fort Collins is different from other craft brewing capitals in the nation.

“I think one of the things that sets Fort Collins apart is the quality level of the beer,” Lombardi said. “The community of brewers in Fort Collins really work together and help each other out … I think along those lines we are second to none of breweries in the world.”

With the local industry becoming more and more crowded, some brewers are concerned that the market is becoming too populated with the growing number of breweries.

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“I do think that eventually Fort Collins will reach a saturation point with regard to craft breweries, but I don’t think we’re there yet,” Cochran said. “There still are many more people with something to add to the craft brewing scene, and more consumers who have yet to be introduced to the awesome taste and culture of craft beer.”

Rosso believes there is still significant room for growth.

“Before prohibition there was something like 2,500 craft breweries in the country, we just recently surpassed 3,000,” Rosso said. “If you think about the change in population it seems like a no brainer, we could probably support three or four times what we had before prohibition.”

As the newest brewery owner in Fort Collins, Rosso is striving to ensure Snowbank is known for more than simply being the 16th brewery to open.

“When a new restaurant opens in Old Town nobody says ‘hey, you’re restaurant number 522, do you think that’s too many?’” Rosso said. “So far, it seems like there’s plenty of people here who like to drink beer.”

Collegian Reporter Erick Plattner can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @ErickPlattner.