Beer Man

New Belgium Brewing Decides to Hibernate for the Winter

We can't have nice things.
We can't have nice things. New Belgium Brewing
One of the state's biggest and best-known breweries has packed it in for the winter.

Since mid-June, New Belgium Brewing, the maker of Fat Tire Amber Ale, had only been welcoming guests on its outdoor patio, saying that the COVID-19 pandemic made it too unsafe to host guests inside the building, either at the bar, in the taproom or on tours. But with colder weather approaching, along with shorter days and "smoke from wildfires impacting air quality in Fort Collins," the brewery has closed down the patio, as well.

The New Belgium Liquid Center "will continue to operate in an abundance of caution" in order to "protect the health and safety of the brewery’s tasting room employees and other coworkers," as well as guests, because "it poses a risk to open indoors," the brewery says.

The company, which was bought by Japanese beer giant Kirin a year ago, has also closed its patio and taproom at its Asheville, North Carolina, brewery. Both breweries will continue to sell "curbside" beer to go.

"All coworkers affected by these changes will be offered either an opportunity to remain on the reduced Liquid Center team, or another opportunity in the organization," the brewery adds.

New Belgium Brewing
The decision comes as the majority of Colorado's breweries are making plans to stay open over the winter — with social distancing precautions in place, along with outdoor tents or heated areas — in order to keep revenue flowing. New Belgium, however, doesn't need to rely on taproom sales for its well-being because of its size and scope: Before being purchased by Kirin, it was the fourth-largest craft brewery in the country.

In fact, New Belgium was one of the first breweries to close its taproom in March as the pandemic overwhelmed the United States, forcing lockdowns and closures from coast to coast — shuttering even before Governor Jared Polis mandated that month that food-service establishments close for on-site consumption.

The brewery eventually reopened its spacious patio on June 16 with limited, socially distanced table service and reservation requirements. But the taproom never reopened, and New Belgium's famous tours were put on hold.

"We are working towards a comprehensive plan to reopen at an appropriate time in 2021," the brewery notes, adding that it will likely be in the spring — pending compliance with any state pandemic regulations.
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes