I had been scheming a way to make it to Fort Collins from Denver for a couple of days. It would be an easy enough bike ride, passing through Boulder heading north. There are plenty of places to stop, perhaps too many. But when I found out the friend I had planned to stay with was leaving in two days for vacation, I realized I needed to get there soon or figure out an all new scheme.
As luck would have it, Brandon was driving up there today for a field site visit. All I had to do was pack an overnight bag and jump in. Of course there was the detail of getting back to Denver, but I assumed I’d figure it out.
Transport by car is so much faster than by bicycle. I hesitate to say more efficient; that seems relative. As far as time goes, it’s more efficient. As far as experience and understanding, it’s infinitely less efficient. I arrived around lunch and headed straight for Coopersmith’s. Back in the day, when I was finishing high school and contemplating college, I visited Ft. Collins with my sister. While there, we had dinner at Coopersmith’s. As I was under age, there was no chance of trying their beers (disclaimer: I stole a sip or two from my sister). I’d been sporting a shirt from a brewery I had never had an appreciable amount of beer from for 12 years. It was time to rectify that.
A flight was ordered. It was hard to finish, not due to beer quality, far from it. The beers were good, but not great. No, my body and stomach were starting to revolt against me. My mind was strong, but my stomach was not. I pushed through it, which made all the difference in the world. Once I had consumed a couple of pints, I was ready to roll.
The gentleman I know in Ft. Collins (I use the term gentleman loosely, although he is great people and from the South) and I went to college together. He’s more of a Georgia Bulldog than I’ll ever be; a football fanatic and founder of the Ft. Collins UGA alumni association. We had partied through many years at UGA, and I was excited to be able to rekindle that relationship. Once he was off work, the game was on.
Back in Kansas City, I had brazenly introduced myself to Doug O’Dell of O’Dell Brewery. He had told me to contact him when I arrived in Ft. Collins, and, if he was available, he would meet up for a beer. My timing must have been good because I sent him an email in the morning and by lunch I had set up a meeting with him.
When Nathan (my buddy in Ft. Collins) met up with me, I let him know the news. I knew he was a hop head, and would thus be in love with O’Dell. I was right. He was ecstatic at the opportunity to meet Doug. We promptly went to the brewery and waited. After introductions, Doug offered to give us a tour of the brewery. Shit yeah, a tour from the owner. I think so.
Doug asked if we needed beers for the tour, which of course we did. After he poured each of us a pint (a moment that will live on in infamy between Nathan and me), we commenced a tour. It was great to see the look on the tour guides and attendees faces when we walked through with the owner. One tour guide’s face clearly expressed how bad he wanted to know who we were and what we were doing with Doug O’Dell. I was tickled to death.
We are all presented with opportunities. Chances to meet someone, do something, to act. The paralysis of inaction can be a great hinderance in life. I was, and am, thankful I was able to stand and introduce myself to Doug. That single action afforded me the opportunity to get a behind the scenes tour of an amazing brewery, and to have an extremely memorable time.
The brewery is fantastic, a state of the art facility with all the bells and whistles of a large, regional craft brewery, but with a human component. Some large regional breweries often feel overly automated, as if the human element has been removed. Not at O’Dell. They are still using their original brewhouse for experimental beers, and when we visited a group from a regional beer bar were there brewing a house beer.
Post tour there were more beers. Doug is a busy man and couldn’t hang out with us. I understood, and was delighted to have been given the chance to meet and talk with him. Not many brewery owners would be willing to do that. From O’Dell we rode bikes to Funkwerks, a brewery known for saisons and sour beers.
I’ve had a handful of their beers before and have never been overwhelmed. I guess with a name like Funkwerks I expect the beers to be particularly funky. Funky like horse blanket, sweat, and Brett, not like heavy baselines and drum beats. And although I knew this, I was still excited to try the beers from the source. I wasn’t disappointed. The beers were fantastic. I loved the Raspberry Provincial, the most sour and interesting of the draft options. We stayed longer than we should have. This wasn’t an apparent mistake until later in the evening.
Next we rode to Horse and Dragon, a relatively new brewery in town. After a couple of pints, we decided to go back to Nate’s house, grab his wife and a growler, and go to the river. The river that runs through Ft. Collins is gorgeous, and clean. Unlike the Ohio River, along the shores of which Louisville is located, the Cache la Poudre River is clear, swimmable, and thus floatable. We didn’t get in, but I was sorely tempted to. On the walk down to the river, tragedy struck: the webbing on my Chaco sandals tore in half. Fortunately, I was able to tie the two sides together, and there is an REI in Denver, so it would look like I’d be visiting soon.
The night was quickly on us, and we were all exhausted, so we turned in earlier than expected. I needed the rest.