Northern Colorado Craft Beer Heritage

April 3, 2020

A lot of places can claim home to breweries, but not many can claim to be a pioneer in the industry like Northern Colorado. One of the main reasons is the region’s pure water quality, is ideal for brewingThat, combined with the lively spirit of entrepreneurship helps brewers innovate and collaborate. Yes, the prohibition was booming well into the 60s, but that was a mere obstacle for NoCo’s determined brewers. Here’s a brief history of how Northern Colorado has become known as the “Napa Valley” of beer, brimming with breweries on nearly every corner: 

A Fight for The Right to Drink 

It’s tough to imagine Colorado with a strict ban on beer, but it wasn’t too long ago when the 73-year-long prohibition was in full effectThe beer that many enjoy now would’ve been illegal in Fort Collins just 50 years ago! It wasn’t until 1969 when the first legal cocktail was served right here in Fort Collins, finally ending the liquor ban that caused a national ruckus.  

For many, Fort Collins and beer go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other. It may be hard to believe, but for decades, the only alcohol sold within city limits was a low-strength 3.2% beer. Now you can get any range from a 3.2% pale ale to a 9.3% double IPA. Or maybe you prefer an aged fruited sour or perhaps a milk chocolate stout? Well, those alongside any flavor to satisfy your palette is right at your fingertips! 

A Beer-Making Opportunity  

Once 1988 rolled around, Fort Collins opened its first brewery: Anheuser-Busch. This marks the beginning of Fort Collins’ fulfilling journey into becoming the beer-soaked community it is today. Having a brewery open after years of restrictions was huge and inspired many entrepreneurial opportunities, like the grand opening of Old Colorado Brewing Co. This was Fort Collins’ first – but surely not last – craft brewery.  

Many of the town’s staple breweries followed these footsteps of success, including OdellCoopersmith and New Belgium—familiar names for locals and visitors alike. For a little background, Odell Brewing sold 900 barrels of beer in its first year of operation, and New Belgium is now Colorado’s largest craft brewery. Convincing enough? If not, you’ll be happy to know that today most of NoCo’s breweries offer daily tours for you to get informed and tickle your taste buds with unique, custom crafted beer. When it comes to original hops and barley concoctions, Northern Colorado’s array of options has you covered. 

A Success Story 

It’s been half a century since Coloradans were riddled with parched throats, desperate for an ice-cold beer. Now, Colorado is on a roll. Did you know Northern Colorado produces over 70% of all beer brewed in the state? Another reason to make your way up to the craft beer capitol! Upon visiting, you have a whopping 33 breweries to choose from, many of which are award-winning for total satisfaction guaranteed.  

While Fort Collins holds a rich craft beer history, the breweries in GreeleyLoveland, and Windsor are not to be missed. If you are indecisive and want to have every option at your disposal, then you’re in luck. Brewfests also play a major role in crafting NoCo’s liveliness, while offering the best beers from the area. What are you waiting for? 


If this blog didn’t fully quench your thirst, explore more about what Northern Colorado has to offer in terms of food/drink, outdoor activities, arts/culture and more! 

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