The northern Colorado town of Fort Collins (population: 155,000) is one of several medium-sized cities around the United States to earn the name Beer City USA from bloggers and travel magazine articles. In the past, that was almost wholly driven by two large outfits: New Belgium, they of Fat Tire and the Lips of Faith experimental series, and Odell, whose Myrcenary double IPA and Lugene chocolate milk stout are both standard bearers across their wide distribution (they make it as far as Idaho). But now, much like what Bend began to see three years ago, the momentum of FoCo's beer scene is shifting to the new, small guys.
"There's something like 18 breweries here right now, and supposedly 22 by the end of the year," says Chris Lazzery, manager of downtown bottle shop Craft Beer Cellar, where offerings from locals like Grimm Brothers and Horse & Dragon share space with "imports" from 10 Barrel, Crux, and even The Ale Apothecary. "The goal around here used to be getting into [bottle] production from the start, but now you're seeing a lot of new brewers opening with a 10 or 15-barrel system, not looking to become the next giant."
The big guys are still worth a visit if you're new to the Front Range—New Belgium offers free tours that take you through their cavernous barrel house, and Odell's storybook, castle-like brewery and taphouse is a great place to unwind and play cornhole with the prairie dogs that teem across the city's north side.
A short bike ride away, however, is Funkwerks, which has specialized in saisons and Belgian-style ales since late 2010. They're the kings of their domain, offering everything from a delicate spring ale done up with Nelson Sauvin hops to a Berliner weisse packed with tart raspberries that's the shade of wine cooler and tastes far better.
Closer to the Colorado State University campus is Zwei Brewing, a German lager specialty house whose Oktoberfest and dunkel-weizen offerings show off their amazing talents with malt-forward beers. Not far from there is Black Bottle, whose offbeat brews (including a milk stout designed to taste as close to Count Chocula as possible) share the 40-tap wall with other breweries across the United States. (If you want the whole shebang in one place, head for The Mayor of Old Town up north—they've got 100 taps, nearly all Colorado beers, and a menu of locally-raised beef burgers.)