Trail Mix: Colorado's Eclectic Beer Trail Scene, Flickr: ubermommyIn Colorado, the slopes beckon and so do the breweries. The Rocky Mountain state is to craft beer what California is to wine. Microbreweries like the spunky New Belgium Brewery as well as major international beer companies including Coors call Colorado home. Colorado’s beer trail is becoming increasingly popular and, for those who like to pair their beer with food, the Rocky Mountain region boasts a range of culinary styles suitable for any palate and budget.
Coors Brewery  opened in Golden, Colorado, in 1873, named after its German founder, but the craft microbrew scene has only been around in the state for the last 25-30 years and has quickly taken off.  Beer is now becoming as big of a reason to book cheap flights to Colorado next to skiing and hiking. Coloradans love their beer so much they even have the annual Great American Brew Festival  held every fall and the state has a beer trail that lulls brew lovers from its biggest city, Denver, to smaller, off-the-beaten path mountain towns and everything in between, such as the small, but growing city of Fort Collins—which is fast becoming a beer mecca. Mission-minded and committed to not just growing a business but developing community, many of these local brewer masters integrate conservation and philanthropy with their love for a tasty drink.
Follow the Suds
Start in Denver with the Mile High City’s oldest brew pub Wynkoop Brewing Co.  located in “LoDo” or the historic Lower Downtown region. Founded in 1988, Wynkoop specializes in several India Pale Ales, dark stouts, ambers, and pilsners, to name a few, and pours funky brews like “Patty’s Chile Beer” and “London Calling.” Wynkoop, which was co-founded by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a former mayor of Denver, also prides itself on running a green, clean business and emphasizes environmental stewardship, including a longstanding recycling program, and features locally-grown food on its menu.
Foaming in Fort Collins
An hour north of Denver is Fort Collins whose Main Street served as a model for Disneyland’s “Main Street USA.” Fort Collins is the largest producer of beer in Colorado and one of the city’s most popular breweries, New Belgium Brewery, is one of the top-selling beer makers in the country. Fort Collins offers numerous beer-tasting opportunities and is brimming with award-winning breweries that bring their unique mix of magic and chemistry to make amazing beers. Begin with Odell’s Brewery , one of the first microbreweries in the area. Since opening in 1989, Odell has grown so fast that by the end of 2011, it had brewed 58,000 barrels and required a staff of more than 60 people. Not bad for a business that first opened in a grain elevator. Regulars and visitors alike flock to Odell for its “Easy Street Wheat” and its flagship brew “90 Shilling.” Odell hosts a “Charity of the Month” program in which is spotlights and supports selected organizations. In 2004, the company was awarded the Outstanding Small Business Philanthropy award by the State of Colorado.
Down the road is New Belgium Brewery , co-founded by a guy who rode his bike around Belgium and sipped brews made by monks and pub brew masters. New Belgium Brewery, established in 1991, hosts the widely-attended annual Tour de Fat, which features a costumed bike parade, beer, local food, and more.  “Fat Tire,” amber ale, is the company’s signature brew and its Belgian-style “Abbey Ale” is also a favorite.  Last year, Esquire magazine called “Fat Tire” one of the “Best Canned Beers to Drink Now.” Tastings and tours are available several days a week. The brewery’s tour is also one of the area’s most popular, perhaps because the tour ends with a ride down the company’s swirling indoor slide–no small feat after sipping about a half dozen glasses of beer that are served during the tour. New Belgium is equally well-known for its strong business ethics; 43 percent of the company is owned by co-workers through an Employee Stock Ownership Program, and the brewery advocates it sustainability model for both employee retention and practicing energy-efficient, eco-friendly brewing. In 2009, the company brewed 582,000 barrels of ale, making it the third largest producer of beer in America.
Bubbles in Boulder
Brew master champion, Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery,  located in the hip, charming city of Boulder, has won six gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival held in Denver. Opened in 1993, Mountain Sun serves its own interpretation on various stouts, pilsners, ales, and other hops and barley concoctions. One favorite is the “Isadore Java Porter,” a creamy ale infused with a fair amount of coffee. “Colorado Kind Ale” is another Mountain Sun classic and one of its more “hoppier” beers made with whole flower and cascade hops. Mountain Sun operates two locations in Boulder providing visitors with more chances for tastings.
Click here to learn more about sightseeing in Colorado and touring breweries.
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photo: ubermommy

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