Tuesday 10: A Brief History of Beer in Fort Collins

Since my favorite middle daughter started working at craft breweries, my family has gained an appreciation for good beer. She’s introduced us to every variety from sours to IPA’s to special brews aged in Riesling barrels and beyond. Personally I’m a fan of darker beers with lots of flavor. I was so excited about Avery’s Rumpkin beer that I bought an entire case, to share with 20 friends of course. At 16.67% ABV, that beer would have gotten me and the entire group thrown in jail, literally, in 1969. Yes, Fort Collins, home to an ever expanding selection of microbreweries was dry for 80 years. Things sure have changed for the better.

Here’s a timeline of Fort Collins beer history:

1. Fort Collins, 1883…Robert Miller opens Fort Collins Bottling Works. The company eventually becomes famous for bottling Coor’s “Golden Lager Beer.”

2. Fort Collins, 1890’s…55% of the 1111 hearings between 1890 and 1910 are related to drunkenness and illegal liquor sales. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union passes an ordinance prohibiting the sale of liquor in 1873. The ordinance is repealed two years later.

3. Fort Collins, 1896…Due to pressure from the WCTU, Ordinance 8 is passed and the purchase, sale or providing the gift of liquor within city limits is prohibited.

4. Fort Collins, early 1900’s…Businessmen find creative ways around the liquor ordinance. Drugstores liquor for “medicinal purposes” and bootlegging is a thriving side business.

5. Fort Collins, 1909?…The Town Pump takes a risk and opens during Prohibition (or at least their earliest records date back to then). A bar without beer seems odd, but it still becomes a popular hangout that remains open to this day. And of course there are the rumors of bootlegging in the basement…

6. Fort Collins, 1935…3.2% alcohol beer becomes legal to a limited extent. The malt beverage isn’t considered alcohol, but it’s still very popular with the city’s youth.

7. Fort Collins, 1969…A college town without beer? The students disagree. Prohibition ends largely in part to student protests.

8. Fort Collins, 1970’s…With prohibition only officially ending in Fort Collins three years ago, drinking liquor is still gradually becoming a part of the mainstream culture. Many people still grab a “3.2” beer at the local bar.

9. Fort Collins, 1988 & 1989…three breweries open and beer culture gets a sudden boost around town. Anheuser-Busch opens a plant, CooperSmith’s becomes one of the first brewpubs in Northern Colorado, and Odell Brewing provide Fort Collins with one it’s first microbreweries. In the mean time, Jeff Lebesch begins experimenting with Fat Tire beers in his basement.

10. Fort Collins, 2015…in the sometimes dubbed “Napa” of beer, people are gathered in breweries and restaurants over pints. Every seat is filled with a mixture of visitors and locals. With 14 breweries to choose from and several more in nearby towns, visitors don’t lack options. http://fortcollinsbreweryguide.com/breweries.aspx

Sources and for more information:
What’s your favorite Fort Collins brew?
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