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(Ale) Trailblazing Across The Country: Part 4 - Along The Two-Eight-Seven

Previous Ale Trail Blogposts
Part 1 - Beer Tourism and The Ale Trail (with a focus on the Columbus Ale Trail)
Part 2 - Brewery/Ale Trail Comparisons with similarly-sized metro areas to Columbus
Part 3 - A Compendium of the Nation's Ale Trails

From a United States craft beer perspective, there are a select few cities that make the craft beer seeker's palate water just from the mere mention...Portland, Oregon...San Diego, California...Asheville, North Carolina...and so forth. For these cities, extra ancillary promotions like an ale trail concept are pretty much not needed; for all intents and purposes, the attraction and strength of these craft beer scenes speak for themselves.

For this post, I had originally considered taking a brief look at how all these cities promote their craft breweries and how it fits in the overall picture.  Upon closer inspection, it turned out one of these meccas, recently named as one of the top craft beer destinations in the country by a prominent online travel site, provided a contrasting approach to the ale trail equation: one part of the named metro has an ale trail, while the other part does not.
Interstate 25 may provide the more time expedient route, but US 287 will give you
a much more scenic view as you visit the numerous breweries in the Fort Collins/
Loveland metro area in Colorado (image from the Fort Collins Coloradoan)
While Denver, with the granddaddy of all craft beer competitions in the Great American Beer Festival, may be rightly thought of as Colorado's craft beer center, pretty much the whole state can be identified as a craft beer destination, rating as one of the top craft beer breweries per capita states in the country along with Oregon and Vermont.

Interestingly enough, for me and my spouse, our first visit into The Centennial State wasn't oriented toward Denver but rather a neighboring metro to the north in Fort Collins/Loveland, the same one hinted at above that was named #3 in Travelocity's Top Beer Destinations in the small metro category.

While these two towns have similar status as settlements on Colorado's wild frontier prior to statehood, as well as acting as gateway towns to nature-oriented attractions (Rocky Mountain National Park, Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, Horsetooth Reservoir and the Devil's Backbone, among others,) Loveland and Fort Collins have their own unique personalities and attractions.

One of the many statues found at the 26-acre Chapungu Sculpture Park
in Loveland, Colorado (photo courtesy of visitlovelandco.org)
For the more southerly lying Loveland, a city of roughly 70,000 residents, the city's attractions straddle the gamut, including numerous shopping options and its thriving art scene, which was anchored by the establishment of a bronze foundry in the 1970s. Currently, the town is a bit of artists haven, and the town isn't shy about showing off that artistic side, as nearly 400 public art pieces can be found within city limits.

Perhaps the most famous thing about Loveland is the name of the city itself, and its association with Valentines Day. Along with the locally held Fire and Ice Festival held around the holiday, the city's unique Valentines Day Re-mailing Program, now over 70 years old, allows those with a romantic flair an opportunity to send their loved ones a specially-designed postcard. It is probably to no one's surprise that this Colorado city of just over 70,000 people has earned itself the nickname "The Sweetheart City."

Big Beaver Brewing is one of eight breweries listed on the snazzy passport
which maps Loveland's Brewery Tour, which launched summer of 2016
Loveland's craft beer input into the Loveland/Ft. Collins equation might be on the more modest side, but that doesn't mean city officials aren't into trying to promote the city's sudsy treasures. Launched this summer, Loveland's Brewery Tour Passport offers a guide to visiting the area's breweries, from Big Beaver Brewing (our stop during our visit to Colorado) to Big Thompson (named for the nearby river) all the way to the "forbidden" (as in Verboten Brewing, a reference to ingredients that were prohibited under the 1516 Reinheitsgebot, or German Beer Purity Law.) Those who complete the tour of the city's eight breweries can earn themselves either a T-shirt or pint glass for their efforts.

A flight of beers from craft beer stalwart Odell Brewing, one of
the 23 breweries which lie within the city limits of Fort Collins
To the north, Fort Collins needs no incentives to draw the craft beer fan up to its city limits. Appropriate to its pioneer town origins, this seat of Larimer County hosts two of the longer-lasting pioneers in the modern craft beer movement in New Belgium Brewing (their Fat Tire is about as classic and ubiquitous a craft beer as you can find these days) and Odell Brewing (whose impressive facility and brews were enjoyed by the both of us during our whirlwind Fort Collins visit.)

And while the brewery number might seem modest at 23 (at the time of this post), you can find just about anything you want, from the saison-oriented Funkwerks to the easy drinking brews of Pateros Creek to the barrel-aged and blended beers of Jessup Farm Barrel House.

However, as Katy Schneider, Certified Tourism Ambassador and Director of Marketing for Visit Fort Collins, well knows, there is much more to her city of roughly 150,000 people than great beer.

Old town Fort Collins provides a taste of Colorado's pioneer days
(photo courtesy of visitftcollins.com)
For a city that was officially dry until 1969, Fort Collins' brewery industry is perhaps the most robust in the state, producing nearly 70% of the state's craft beer, according to the Visit Fort Collins website. As Schneider relayed to me in my e-mail inquiry to her, a 2010 study by Fort Collins' own Colorado State University showed that "local breweries supported 938 direct jobs impacts, and accounting for spinoff impacts, Larimer County (in which both Fort Collins and Loveland lie) breweries supported a total of $309.9 million in output, 2,488 jobs and $141.9 million to local payrolls."

Bicyclist-friendly Fort Collins, which offers a "Bike Library" bike share concept,
offers a handy way for folks to burn off extra calories between brewery stops
Schneider gave a list of attractions and attributes of Fort Collins that probably would do a vast majority of cities proud, including but not exclusively limited to numerous press accolades; an entrepreneurial and tech trade hotbed; having the state’s only nationally-designated “Wild & Scenic River" (the Cache la Poudre, one of those geographical place names that can easily distinguish a native vs. visitor;) hundreds of miles of biking, hiking, and walking paths; year-round bird watching; and a herd of genetically-pure bison roaming the lands around the city.

However, Schneider stated how important it is to nurture the strong craft beer appeal of the area in order to make Fort Collins more than a one-time visit, noting that her city had "more craft beer, craft coffee and craft spirits than nearly any city of its size."

"Yes, craft beer drives visitation but it’s the depth of experiences that keep visitors coming back time and time again."

The saisons of Funkwerks, which lies on the east side of Fort Collins
Loveland, Colorado Resources
Visit Loveland      City of Loveland     Loveland Chamber of Commerce

Fort Collins, Colorado Resources
Visit Fort Collins    City of Fort Collins     Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce

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