Hop On

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Exploring Fort Collins by bike leads to some of the greatest food and drink discoveries. 

By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

Driving north from Denver to Fort Collins, Colo., on a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon in July is breathtaking. As the mountains seemed like they got closer and closer, I couldn’t wait to be situated in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and embark on a journey that would not only test my athleticism, but also my tolerance for the altitude while tasting some local brews. 

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Shortly after arriving at The Armstrong Hotel in Fort Collins, Beer & Bike Tours’ owner Bob Williams arrived with three bikes ready to show me the city and the breweries that call it home. Visit Fort Collins President and CEO Cynthia Eichler joined us that afternoon to offer insight into the city that calls itself “The Craft Beer Capitol of Colorado.”

Hailing from Chicago and a first-time visitor to Colorado, being more than 5,000 feet above sea level was quite the change for me. I was really interested to see how I would fare not only riding a bike – which I hadn’t done in probably a decade – but also adding craft beer into the mix.

Luckily, as the saying goes, it was just like riding a bike and I wanted to tour Fort Collins like a local. Fort Collins is a League of American Bicyclists Platinum Level Bicycle City, Eichler says.

“Residents and visitors to Fort Collins come because they love the outdoors and biking is one of the things they enjoy doing,” Eichler adds. “Fort Collins offers more than 285 miles of bike lanes and trails. There are ‘bike-in’ events hosted by craft brewers, movie nights and festivals such as ‘Tour de Fat’ with New Belgium, and more than 25,000 riders attend that event.”

 

 

Breweries Galore

Boasting 20 craft breweries throughout the city, a large percentage are located within historic downtown, including New Belgium Brewing and gold medal-winning Odell Brewing Co. Williams began our tour with a stroll through downtown Fort Collins, which was reportedly the inspiration for Disneyland’s Main Street USA.

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Hopping on our bikes – me a bit wobbly at first – we headed to Horse & Dragon Brewing Company where owners Carol and Tim Cochran invited us to grab a seat and enjoy their beers. We sampled a flight of six beers: Surf & Rescue, 

Almost Summer Ale, Fort Kölnz, Sage Adweisse, Sad Panda Coffee Stout and Horse & Dragon Dark Chocolate Stout.

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Sage Adweisse is a sour beer, which took some getting used to for me, but I thought was good in moderation. My absolute favorite was Sad Panda Coffee Stout followed by Fort Kölnz.

At Horse & Dragon, it’s all about finding an amazing beer and grabbing a second pint. The atmosphere in the brewery is very relaxed; you feel like part of the family and everyone is easily approachable. The brewery traces its beer from the grain to the glass and the process is underway in the next room as patrons sip its current creations.

Funkwerks was the second stop on our journey, featuring saison, provincial and seasonal/experimental beers. Wine lovers will find a home here as the beers feature more fruity notes. Saison, Funkwerks’ flagship saison ale, was born from a series of test batches in co-owner Gordon Schuck’s backyard. It was the 2012 Great American Beer Festival gold medal winner.

 

 

Wine and Dine

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Our last stop on the tour was Jessup Farm Artisan Village. Timberline Road was our path of choice because it runs adjacent to the farm, but also required we bike up a decently steep hill. I was very aware of the altitude at this point. The views were amazing, so halfway up the hill I hopped off the bike and the three of us walked the remainder of the hill to the farm.

Jessup Farm Artisan Village is beautiful with restored buildings that now house a coffee shop, retailers, a restaurant and brewery. The Farmhouse at Jessup Farm, a casual eatery focused on country and healthy farm fare, is set in a 130-year-old building. On a quarter-acre of land and with a chicken coop in the backyard, The Farmhouse offers seasonal menus and items made from scratch.

 I had the herb brine pork chop that was set atop creamy white grits and asparagus. Molasses-thyme apples topped the tender pork chop. Eichler chose the shrimp and grits, which featured house-smoked tasso, holy trinity, creole butter sauce, creamy grits and micro greens. Both were amazing as were the seven-day pork belly bites we dined on for an appetizer.

Beer & Bike Tours is a fantastic way to experience Fort Collins with Williams as your guide through local routes and hidden gems. The company offers personalized tours throughout the United States and overseas. The next “Adventure on Tap” awaits.

 

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