For many years, one of the things that set New Belgium Brewing apart
was the opportunity it gave visitors to take a peek behind the curtain of its sprawling and unusual operation in Fort Collins. Not only did tour guides show people the brewhouse, but they brought them through the whimsically decorated corridors of its offices, through the foeder forest, into the quality lab, offering beer samples all the while.
But when the pandemic hit in March 2020 — just four months after New Belgium sold to Japanese beer conglomerate Kirin
— the brewery shut down
almost all of its public interaction.
This spring, New Belgium plans to restart its tours, which have been revamped
and simplified from previous iterations
, as a hearty "welcome back" symbol for the state's billion dollar brewing industry.
"Our Liquid Center team has spent the past year enriching New Belgium’s revered tour program, honing our tour guides’ beer knowledge and storytelling," the brewery says. "Our tours offer an up-close look at the unique principles and practices that make up New Belgium’s Human Powered Business model, which shows how putting coworkers and communities first creates long-term business growth and resilience."
Beginning on May 6, visitors will be able to choose between a free, slimmed down 45-minute tour (no reservations needed; free samples still included!) or a ninety-minute full brewery tour (reservations needed) that takes people "on an extensive journey through the many fascinating departments at New Belgium, and includes a detailed history of New Belgium’s timeline
, story, beer facts, and plenty of beer tasting."
This tour costs $10, but it's worth the money since guests get to visit the brewhouses, the foeder forest and the packaging hall — and even ride down its small, corkscrew slide. They will also get to enjoy a curated beer flight. Some specialized tours prior to the pandemic had cost between $45 and $65. But since they allow guests inside the brewery's production areas, "we are still safeguarding for the time being," says company spokeswoman Megan Olson. "We may bring those experience back again in the future though."
As for the slide, Olson says it was built decades ago "for New Belgium co-workers to travel quickly — and much more happily — between department floors... just another reason for guests to experience our tour."
Outside of those tours, you can also get a guided tasting in the taproom for $20 in which one of the "Liquid Center's" experts will come table-side and walk your group through the beers and beer history.
And to top it off, all of these tours are now available in Spanish, something that wasn't previously offered. "This offering is a true celebration of New Belgium’s commitment to democratizing craft beer so that more people and communities can enjoy it," the brewery says in a statement about the tours.
New Belgium waited until now to restart its tours because it had transferred or promoted a number of its taproom staffers to different roles at the company during the pandemic closures, Olson explains.
"With this shift came re-hiring an almost entirely new Liquid Center staff once we reopened. We brought on a brand new team of tour guides, and, along with adhering to safety guidelines set forth by our internal COVID evaluation team, we made the conscious decision to take the next year to elevate our tour program and fully train our tour staff like never before," she adds.
The announcement comes on the heels of Coors Brewery also announcing
that it is once again welcome thirsty visitors to the Golden brewery for tours — though at a higher price than before the pandemic.
And FYI, the Fort Collins taproom will also return to having hours seven days a week on April 18, from noon to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday.