Brews, bites and bikes: A weekend in Fort Collins

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

horseanddragon

Situated at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, with over 300 days of pure sunshine, Fort Collins, Colorado is a vibrant and eclectic city that offers an abundance of activities to visitors and locals alike.  Whether you’re biking or hiking on one of the scenic trails, dining inside a historic, century-old building or exploring the thriving craft beer scene, you’ll truly get to absorb and appreciate each experience thanks to the serene, small-town feel amid the city.

I was excited to escape big city Denver and head a short drive north to Fort Collins. Although I only had 48 hours to roam around the ‘Craft Beer Capital’ of the state, I managed to visit some of the best destinations in town.  To kick-start your itinerary, I’ve rounded up a few of my favourite restaurants and breweries to visit in Fort Collins!

Where To Eat

Fort Collins, or FoCo, has quite the blooming food scene with a number of authentic farm-to-table restaurants, pubs, fine dining, health-focused eateries, outdoor patios and more.  Foodies flock to the city to dine at renowned places such as Welsh Rabbit Bistro, The Melting Pot and Fort Collins Donut Company (FoCo DoCo), which are only a few of the highlights on their culinary map.

JessupFarms

The Farmhouse at Jessup Farms
The Farmhouse restaurant located in the Jessup Farm Artisan Village is set in a gorgeous 19th century home. Spread over two floors and a backyard patio, this casual and airy restaurant boasts a real cottage feel. The menu focuses on local and seasonal fare with most of their ingredients coming from nearby farms, or directly from their backyard which has a quarter acre of land and a chicken coop. How's that for true farm to table dining?

The menu offers a great selection of starters, salads and sandwiches and after a full day of travelling, I was HANGRY.  I ordered the Wrap of the Day which was loaded with fresh turkey, lettuce, tomato, bacon and a homemade red pepper aioli.  Lisa had the Smoky Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese which looked amazing and I think it tasted good too since she didn’t talk the entire time (a very rare occurrence).  For dessert we split some of their donuts which are made in-house daily.  They came out warm, fluffy and absolutely delicious. A must-try treat at The Farmhouse!

farmhouse jessup farms
The Farmhouse is open six days a week with lunch on weekdays and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

The village is also home to local entrepreneurs such as Bindle Coffee, Heyday Boutique, Jessup Farm Barrel House, Lucky 27 Barber Shop and much more. It’s a great area to shop, eat and drink all while supporting local.

bindle coffee

MUST-VISIT: The Jessup Farm Barrel House is a barrel-aging and blending brewery housed in a 133 year old restored barn. Head upstairs to the spacious taproom or relax outside in the beer garden.  There are over 16 beers on tap, a small food menu and plenty of great merchandise available for purchase. Recommended Beer: Unicorn Bubbles - A red wine barrel-aged golden sour with hibiscus and citrus peel.


Emporium Kitchen + Wine Market
Located in the heart of Fort Collins Old Town district, the Emporium Kitchen + Wine Market provides a one-of-a-kind culinary experience. What makes the Emporium Kitchen unique is that it is part market, part grab and go and part restaurant.  Whether you want to pop in for a quick breakfast or sandwich, peruse the market for artisan cheese or meats, raid the wine racks for fancy bottles or just have a memorable dining experience, there is certainly something for everyone.

emporium kitchen

Executive Chef David Anderson focuses on locally-sourced, quality foods which can be paired with one of the wines from their old + new world wine list, or perhaps try a wine flight if that is of interest to you. 

For appetizers we shared the Grilled Shrimp Cocktail which was the perfect amount of food to satiate my appetite.  For an entrée I had the Crispy Skin Salmon with braised fennel, fingerling potatoes, baby beets, Pernod and nicoise olive butter.  All of the flavours of the dish melded together beautifully, and the salmon was cooked to perfection.  It was one of the best meals of my trip, and paired with a beautiful glass of wine just made it that much better. Lisa had the Roasted Colorado Lamb Loin which was also perfectly cooked with accompaniments of tarbais beans and ratatouille. Make sure to leave room for dessert as their made from scratch items are irresistible. I highly recommend the Frozen Espresso Soufflé with Warm Crullers, it was unbelievable!

fort collins food

After dinner, a go-to spot for live music and libations is the Magic Rat.  Located adjacent to Emporium Kitchen, this lovely hangout is a favourite for guests and locals.


Ginger and Baker
With the name alone, you know you’re in for a real treat at Ginger and Baker.  Situated in a 100-year old historic grain mill, the restored space is now a multi-use eatery home to a bakery, restaurant, event space, market and cooking school. We stopped by this 20,000 sq. foot space which is spread out across 3 floors and didn't make it past the main floor.  The smell of freshly baked goods lured me right into the Market and Bakery. Here you will find all sorts of handcrafted goods along with some branded items such as aprons, cookbooks, kitchen utensils and more.



My favourite part of the Market and Bakery was the baked goods display case. I felt like a kid oohing and aahing over the large selection of Pumpkin Pie, Tiramisu Pie, Quadruple Coconut Cream Pie, Peanut Butter Pie, Honey Graham Ginger Cookies, Almond Croissants and much more.  It was 9 am when we got to Ginger & Baker and you can be damn sure I ordered a piece of pumpkin pie to go with my breakfast. I could've went for a second slice but didn't want to be a gormandizer.

pumpkinpie

The all-day cafe is a bright and airy space with a front patio that features all day breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The menu focuses on farm fresh Northern Colorado ingredients using free range eggs from Fort Collins Jodar Farms, honey form their own hives and fresh herbs from their own farm. They strive to use as many local ingredients as possible which seems to be a bit of a trend throughout Fort Collins.

We loved the breakfast options at Ginger and Baker and were really pleased with the portion sizes and the scrumptious biscuits. Did I already mention that you can order pie for breakfast? No one will judge you. Ginger and Baker is the ideal breakfast/brunch spot and we definitely felt like locals gabbing on the patio, sipping on some local Bindle Coffee

breakfast in fort collins

Coopersmith's Pub & Brewing
Coopersmith’s Pub & Brewery is a legendary beer and food destination in Old Town Fort Collins. They have been around since 1989 and have grown tremendously since then, having made over 147 different beers.  The historic building offers a pub side and a poolside, both serving up their delicious beers. The Pub Side offers a casual dining atmosphere with an elevated American food menu and The Poolside is more of a late night hang out with lighter fare and games galore.  Practice your billiards, shuffleboard and other games while quenching your thirst with one of Coopersmith’s signature brews.

coopersmith's

We dined inside the lovely brown-brick pub for lunch and beer flights. The beer options consisted of some staple beers as well as rotational seasonal brews. I really enjoyed their malty Punjabi Pale Ale, a must try at Coppersmith's.  For food, their menu is extremely diverse.  Each food item seemed to be a step-above regular pub fare, with creative items such as Apple Wood Smoked Salmon & Brie Quesadilla, Brewers Mac & Cheese (beer cheese sauce) and the Jalapeno Popper Burger. I ordered the Blackened Chicken with Poblano Cream and Cheesy Grits and was completely satisfied. It was an unbelievable dish consisting of rich and robust flavours.

craft brewery colorado

Where To Drink Craft Beer

Fort Collins is known as the ‘Craft Beer Capital’ of the state, housing over 20 craft breweries including the fourth largest brewer in the U.S., New Belgium Brewing Co

Visiting breweries throughout FoCo is effortless since every area has clusters of breweries within walking, biking or driving distance.  Head to midtown to discover Maxline Brewing and Black Bottle Brewery or venture downtown to Odell Brewing Co., Snowbank Brewing or Funkwerks.  The options are endless! Did you know? 70% of Colorado’s craft beer comes from Fort Collins.

funkwerks

My preferred method of brewery hopping was by bicycle.  We hooked up with Maggie from Beer and Bike Tours who took us on a brews cruise to 3 local breweries.  To my surprise, Fort Collins is 1 of only 5 Platinum Bike-Friendly Communities (as determined by the League of American Bicyclists) in the U.S.  FoCo really has worked on making the city bike-friendly and I have never felt so safe riding around the downtown streets.

bike and beer tours

Biking to breweries was an excellent way to explore Fort Collins, learn about historic landmarks we cycled past, take pit-stops for beautiful sunset photos, and of course get in some exercise in-between the beer spots. All bike rentals come with a helmet and basket so that you can bring home some bottles or beer swag. I was pleased to find out that Beer and Bike Tours offer tours around the world. Anyone down for a 5 day bike trip throughout Belgium?

Our first stop on the bike tour was Troubadour Maltings.  Unfortunately there was no beer here, but without malts, there wouldn't be any beer! Troubadour Maltings provide high quality custom malts from Colorado-grown grain to brewers and distillers across the state. They take pride in focusing on the flavour as opposed to volume, which really allows brewers to develop an artisan beer with it's own sense of terrior.  A big shout out to Troubadour co-founder, Chris Schooley for the informative session on roasting malts.


The second stop was Horse & Dragon Brewing Company.  Horse & Dragon is a fun, family-owned brewery founded by Tim and Carol Cochran. Their love for craft beer and Fort Collins sparked them to open up the brewery in May 2014. They are passionate about bringing people together in the community of Fort Collins and in the larger community of craft beer. They have over 12 taps, bottles to go, and a really sweet patio out back to enjoy your beers on.

horseanddragonbrewery

Funkwerks was our last stop and probably my favourite.  They are a definitely ‘funky’ in terms of their vibrant coloured brewery as well as their experimental beers.  Although they are known for award-winning saisons (their Classic Saison won gold at GABF in 2017), Funkwerks also has delved into Belgian styles, barrel-aged small batches, and sour beers. I absolutely loved their Saison D'Houblon and Raspberry Provincial. Both quality beers, very true to their style.

funkwerks brewery

MUST-VISIT: Odell Brewing Co. for phenomenal beers and a really sweet patio and Tap and Handle, a laid-back bar featuring 74 rotating taps.


Where To Stay

armstrong hotel

We checked in to the historic Armstrong Hotel which is centrally located in downtown Fort Collins.  The original Armstrong Hotel opened in 1923 and had gone through many different owners, name changes and a vacant period.  After some significant renovations, the revitalized Armstrong Hotel opened its doors in June 2004 as the hotel we see today. The charming boutique hotel still flaunts its historic flair with early 20's architecture and design, however, it's the modern comfort and amenities that balance out the hotel nicely, making it ideal hotel for families, solo-travelers, and couples. The hotel offers 45 vintage and modern rooms, each unique in its own way. 

fort collins hotels

Our Double Queen Room was incredibly spacious, comfortable, clean and had everything we needed in it (including like 10 pillows each).  I also liked that our beds were in separate sections of the hotel room; It was nice to have my own sleeping space away from people who snore (just kidding Lisa).  My room also came with fish bowls attached to the wall, how cool is that? 

All of the small characteristics throughout the hotel is what really makes it one-of-a-kind. There is even a resident cat named Oreo who roams through the main floor of the hotel. He’s about 12 years old and loves to interact with guests. If you’re looking for a charming and moderately priced hotel that holds plenty of history, then this is your place in Fort Collins!

Things To Do

OLD TOWN FORT COLLINS
  • Take a stroll through the Historic Old Town.  There are more than 80 eateries, art galleries, locally owned boutiques, bars, and bakeries to discover. A few notable spots are Nuance Chocolate, Harbinger Coffee, Mulberry MAX (liquor and beer shop) and Old Town Spice Shop. Did you know? Old Town Fort Collins was the main inspiration for Disneyland’s Main Street USA.
  • Lose yourself in the bustling nightlife. FoCo is home to Colorado State University, which means that weekends are usually a hot-spot for nightlife.  There are tons of cocktails bars, laid-back pubs and live music venues to discover.
  • Check out one of 15 art galleries situated in the downtown area. In fact, galleries host a First Friday Gallery Walk the first Friday of each month from 6 pm to 9 pm. This allows art fans to relish in the abundance of talented works and visit a few of the galleries all in one evening. As for public art, FoCo is all about the painted pianos.  There are about 65 of them located throughout the city, all ready to be played and photographed!
  • If you have some extra time, drive out to Greeley which is about 40 minutes East of Fort Collins. Greeley is home to one of the best breweries in all of Colorado, WeldWerks . They produce some phenomenal IPAs and Imperial Stouts that people line up hours for.  I didn’t have time to drive out there but Sara from Visit Greeley met us at Coopersmith's for lunch and brought me a bottle of the newly released Coconut Medianoche and a can of Juicy Bits. #grateful


I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Fort Collins and would visit again in a heart beat. It's such a charming city that offers everything I am looking for when traveling.  Great food, amazing beer, outdoor activities and friendly, down to earth people!

A huge thank you to the Colorado Tourism Office and Visit Fort Collins for hosting me! As always, reviews and opinions are entirely my own. 

You can learn more about Fort Collins through https://www.visitftcollins.com/ or feel free to email me with any questions you might have.


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