Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Fort Collins Brewery Tasting Room (2008)

The original Fort Collins BreweryOh how I love to go to brewery tasting rooms. I took the opportunity to visit one of Fort Collins Colorado's smaller breweries - The Fort Collins Brewery. This place is well hidden off the beaten path but surprisingly just down the road from two other breweries in Fort Collins. If you weren't looking for it, you might just miss their brewery. A small sign alongside East Lincoln Avenue points the way into their small parking lot.

FCB's tasting room is smaller in comparison than other tasting rooms, but they offer a big list of beers for you to sample. I was greeted by one of their friendly staff members and I kicked up a conversation with him. I knew right away that I was in for a good time here as Ben, who worked there, was a wealth of knowledge about the FCB beers. I decided to try everything they had on tap.

Unlike some other tasting rooms, I was given one 4 oz glass at a time to sample. They would give me another beer just as soon as I said I was done with the one I had, which isn't a bad idea really. There's a lot less glasses to wash and you had to bring back your glass to get more. I ended up tasting 8 of their fine ales, lagers and stouts. Here is a quick summary of the variety Fort Collins Brewery had to offer:

Old FCB Tasting Room panorama

Major Tom's Pomegranate Wheat - the order of beers was to start off with the lighter colored beers and work my way up to the dark brews. I had heard that this beer was one of their best sellers. What peaked my interest in this beer was the pomegranate that they put into this beer. I'm a fan of Pomegranate, in fact one of my favorite sweet snacks to eat are pomegranate jelly beans. One smell of this beer immediately reminded me of those jelly beans. A nice aroma of pomegranate, hops and wheat hit me immediately. I'm normally not a big fan of wheat beer, but ever since my trip to Michigan and I was given a wheat beer there, I started to like these better. The Major Tom's was a nice light gold in color and was crystal clear with no cloudiness - that's not common to find a clear wheat beer. The taste was very smooth. The beer seemed to be a bit carbonated coming out of the tap but it was very refreshing indeed. It has an ABV of 4.7%. I can see why this is called one of their best sellers. I really enjoyed it. I'll give this beer a 3.5 out of 5 rating.

Retro Red - this beer lives up to the name. It poured a deep crimson color with a light off-white head. This red ale mixed in some English Crystal malts in with some Tettnang hops. I ended up smelling that kind hops in several of their beers it seemed. It is somewhat of their signature aroma I would say. Pleasant and not too bitter. This red beer had a dryer finish to it than the wheat. There was some good roasty / nutty flavor to this. This too was very carbonated as the bubbles coming up the glass just kept coming. The flavor sensation was nothing compared to the wheat beer and was much more "tame" despite the slightly higher ABV of 5.2%. It's hardly fair to judge a beer style like this just coming off of a wheat beer. None the less, I liked this beer but not nearly as much as the wheat. I'll give this a fair 3.2 out of 5 ranking. Update: In 2011, this beer was re-branded as Red Banshee.

Rocky Mountain IPA - Every good brewery has an IPA these days. And every IPA tries to make a bold statement to it's consumer. If I was blind folded, I would be able to tell that this was an IPA right away. The hops hit your nose up front - nicely floral rather than harsh like some I've had. OK, so it passed my smell test - that's a good sign. This IPA was a dark gold in color with a nice head to it. This had a nice hoppy taste too it and well balanced with the malts and left a dry and an expectedly bitter finish. It garnered a 6.2% ABV for a bit of a kick. I'm starting to warm up to IPA's, yet I'll still need more exposure to them to thoroughly enjoy them. Still, it was a well made IPA yet I'll give it a 3.2 out of 5 ranking.

Old FCB Tasting Room taps

Z Lager - Now for something completely different. Not only was this next beer a lager, but it was a smoked lager. The brewery classifies this as a Rauchbier - which in German means smoked beer. Ben behind the bar told me that they smoke their malts over the smoke of burning wood. I forget what type of wood it is. You can detect the smokiness up front when held to your nose. I've heard that some smoked beers taste like campfire ash but not this one. This beer is lightly smoked. The beer itself looks a deep reddish gold with a nice white head. The ABV comes in at 5.2%. This beer while a bit smokey, was not nearly as bitter as the IPA. The smoke gives it a unique characteristic that doesn't need a lot of hops. The taste grows on you the more you drink it. I'll give it a 3.3 out of 5 ranking. it was good, but I was looking forward to even darker beers.

Kidd Lager - this next beer was also a smoked lager - a Schwarzbier (black beer) to be exact. Not quite as smoky as Z Lager but you could still pick out the smoke in the aroma and during the finish. The beer is very dark yet see through and looks much like a porter. But the taste immediately tells you this is no porter. It tastes lighter than it looks. There is something about the aftertaste that I just can't put my finger on. The smoke in this beer gave it a dirtiness much like a campground and reminded me of eating smoked jerky. Decent but not my favorite. I'll give it a 3.2 out of 5.

Chocolate Stout - this was their baseline stout on tap. Very dark yet you could still see a trace of light through it. This brew had some Tettnang and Chinook hops in it - a smell much like some of the other similarly hopped beers here. The stout had a 5.3% ABV to boot. Either I was still tasting the smoke from the last two beers or this beer had a hint of smoke in it as well but barely so. This beer somewhat coated the tongue. This stout did not remind me of most other stouts I've had. It had a hint of coffee to it but not much of a chocolaty taste. My tongue may have been worn out by this time as well - not sure. This stout had a dry and hoppy finish. More like a dark IPA. Decent but not as malty as it could have been - a 3.2 out of 5 rating.

Double Chocolate Stout - I think the beer tender could sense that I wanted a bit more out of a stout and quickly poured me their special Double Chocolate Stout. This particular tap was Nitro infused. As he handed me the glass I could see the "Guinness" thing going on inside the glass. You know, the bubbles seems to become alive and dance inside the glass in waves. Nice affect but how would it taste? Once sip told me that this was more of what I was looking for. It was a hefty 8.2% ABV. Very dark with a nice head that danced every time you swirled the glass. This one was not as bitter as the regular stout. Much smoother and enjoyable. I really like what Nitrogen does to a beer. I'd drink this again any time. After several sips of this, the nitro made me burp. It was a "clean" burp that didn't bring back any hop tastes but rather clear. I really warmed up to this one. I'll give this a 3.4 out of 5 rating.

Tap Club #1 Superbrew - for my last beer of the session, I was surprised to be offered one of their Tap Club beers. This is a beer that normally only members of their tap club were offered. After I tried it, they told me this was going to be offered up later in the year and be called their "Summer Fling". This was a Blonde-Kolsch mix they told me. Golden in color with a nice white head. It has a nice lightly sweet smell to it with a pleasingly sweet taste. It seemed lightly hopped and was quite refreshing. I can tell this would be great cold on a hot summer day. This beer had about a 6.2% ABV. Quite nice! I told Ben that they should definitely make more of this stuff as I really enjoyed it. It was quite the contrast to the Double Chocolate Stout I just had - almost a palette cleanser. I'll give this a 3.4 out of 5 rating as well. I liked it a tad better than the double stout.

By this time, 8 tastings was plenty for me. They also had a Pomegranate Fizzy soft drink and a Root Beer but I didn't feel like a soft drink at that point. The locals who were in the tasting room at the time also made the experience very enjoyable. My kudos go out to "Arkansas Jake" who was visiting the room at the time. He and I seem to share very similar tastes in beer. Having a good beer conversation while tasting make the experience wonderful. The samplers cost me $4 and were well worth it. I'd recommend this small but cozy tasting room to anyone. Fort Collins Brewery have some tasty and unique beers. The wheat and their Blonde Kolsch were tops on my list. The double chocolate stout is recommended as well.

Update: Since the time of this original posting, FCB has moved and has built a brand new facility as of 2010 over at 1020 E. Lincoln Avenue in Fort Collins, just a stone's throw from Odell Brewing. Check out the NEW brewery and taproom article. In it's place, Funkwerks is now located in the old Fort Collins Brewery location.

Related articles:
- FCB Big Shot review.
- Fort Collins Brewery Barrel Licked Bock review.
- FCB pours new brews.

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