Have you ever wondered why New Belgium Brewing is built on the image of a bicycle? Back in 1988, Jeff Lebesch set off on a bicycle tour of Belgium on a fat tire bike in an attempt to slow down from everyday life and connect with nature in a new way. Lebesch eventually stumbled upon a local bar where he had an enlightening conversation with the owner and decided to turn his love for home-brewing into a profession. This bike trip sparked the inspiration for co-founders Kim Jordan and Jeff Lebesch to bring Belgian beer to Fort Collins, Colorado.
New Belgium Brewing is now the largest craft brewery in Colorado, the fourth largest in the United States, and they have since expanded to Asheville, North Carolina. They are recognized as a leader in sustainability and known to be the first brewery to join 1% for the Planet (an international organization whose members contribute at least 1 percent of their annual sales to environmental causes). New Belgium is famous for its flagship beer, Fat Tire Amber Ale, and year-round favorites like Voodoo Ranger IPA, Transatlantique Kriek, and La Folie Sour Brown Ale.
This year, New Belgium Brewing celebrates its 30th anniversary, with the Fort Collins brewery opening in 1991. NBB will release a limited-time seasonal called Wild Ride that will pay homage to their flagship beer, Fat Tire, to commemorate the occasion. In addition to Wild Ride, NBB is also releasing a totally new, redesigned bike that also ties in with the history of New Belgium Brewing. Limited quantities will be available for consumers, while the rest are allocated for their employees’ first employment anniversary.
Heady Times had the opportunity to speak with Leah Pilcer, Director of PR for New Belgium Brewing, as well as Brewmaster Christian Holbrook on this momentous accomplishment.
Heady Times (HT): Can you tell us more about your Wild Ride Anniversary Amber IPA?
Christian Holbrook (CH): This Special Release is a reflection of the last 30 years at New Belgium Brewing. As a company, we’ve had our ups and downs, and it’s been quite a wild ride. It’s a tribute to our award-winning Fat Tire, and it has evolved into a very hop-forward beer. Wild Ride is dry-hopped with a unique combination of Mosaic, Galaxy, and Idaho 7 for a malty sweetness that will be a whole new experience for the senses. This 30th Anniversary Amber Ale will be available nationwide in March for a limited time!
HT: How has New Belgium adjusted to COVID-19, and has it impacted your plans to celebrate your 30th anniversary?
CH: Due to COVID-19, we had to make a lot of adjustments in 2020. We are still missing production teams and co-workers that our breweries, distribution centers, and out in the market. We want to make sure that we’re still able to produce our beer and represent our brands while keeping people as safe as we possibly can. There’s certainly a lot of optimism as we kick off 2021, and we hope to be able to reinstate in-person events and gatherings so we can truly celebrate 30 years at New Belgium Brewing.
HT: Did New Belgium celebrate any accomplishments during 2020?
Leah Pilcer (LP): Our entire Voodoo Ranger portfolio leveled-up last year. Since the end of last year, we’ve seen substantial growth, and our Rotator Series took off with 1985 IPA, Starship IPA, and Higher Plane IPA. This series allowed us to have some awesome campaigns and activations, such as Starship IPA, the winner of a consumer-voted contest in 2019. Then 1985 IPA paid homage to the 80s and utilized the legendary DeLorean from the Back to the Future movies, delivering it in style with their partnership with Minibar. Most importantly, Fat Tire was recently announced as America’s first certified carbon neutral beer.
HT: Can you tell us more about carbon neutrality and your sustainability efforts?
LP: In 1999, we became the first wind powered brewery in the United States. Following that, we installed a water treatment plant in 2002 to ensure our water runoff was treated properly before re-entering the city. Our bottles are also designed specifically to reduce waste, and we were the first brewery to produce electricity on-site through solar technologies. We can proudly admit to being the first carbon-neutral beer, which is pretty revolutionary in this industry. We’ve been working on this achievement for a long time, but our long-term goal is to be fully carbon neutral by 2030 across our entire operation.
HT: Can you explain more about the exclusive New Belgium Brewing bikes?
LP: Since we are located in Fort Collins and Asheville, most of our employees and customers ride their bikes to work or even into the local town. It helps that we are positioned in very sustainable and ecofriendly areas. In 1999, we decided to start a new anniversary bike tradition for our hard-working employees on their first anniversary. Each year marks a new bike design. This year, NBB worked closely with Brooklyn Bike Co. to create a unique design with California artist Josh Ariza. The bike has designs that coincide with our company’s core values and beliefs. For the first time, we will be giving away these bikes through a national digital campaign; otherwise, they are allocated to our co-worker anniversaries.
About Kramer Beverage
Kramer Beverage is South Jersey’s largest beer wholesaler, owned and operated by four generations of the Kramer family since 1924. Kramer Beverage is based out of Hammonton, Atlantic County, and services eight counties in southern New Jersey with top brands from MillerCoors, Constellation, Yuengling, Boston Beer, Heineken USA, Pabst, Diageo, FIFCO, and more. Kramer Beverage also distributes a wide variety of craft beers, from suppliers such as New Belgium and Sierra Nevada, to local favorites including Flying Fish, Double Nickel, Evil Genius, Glasstown, Sly Fox, 2SP, and Dogfish Head. For more information on Kramer Beverage, please visit www.kramerbev.com.