Regeneration RoadTrip 08

Katie and Sarah on bikesOur visit to New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado, began with a bike ride into town for some lunch at a Mexican café. So too began the New Belgium company itself.

RoadTrip 08 -- Day 9

But it wasn’t Mexican food that founder Jeff Lebesch was after during his bicycle tour through Belgium. From the seat of that two-wheeler, he dreamed up a brewing company that would incorporate the artisan techniques of traditional Belgian brewing and his own core values — like environmental stewardship and social responsibility. And thus began the company whose trademark is a bike itself.

Walking into the brew pub at New Belgium, the two-wheeled muse is ever present, incorporated into the overflowing bike racks out front, the art on the walls, even the furniture. Also apparent, a general air of cheer — in fact, we happened to be arriving as employees were raising a glass to co-founder Kim Jordan (Lebesch’s wife), who was celebrating her 50th birthday.

What’s perhaps less obvious is the environmental commitment, but a short conversation with Sustainability Specialist Katie Wallace and Branding Activities Manager Adrian Glasenapp (over tacos) made clear that their efforts in that department are equally passionate. In fact, that’s what drew both of them to the company in the first place.

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New Belgium has implemented efficiencies where they can in the brewing process as well as in the green design throughout their building — using sun-tubes and light shelves to take advantage of Fort Collins’ 360 days of sunshine. They’ve also figured out a way to treat their own wastewater while creating renewable energy via the methane gas produced in the process. To cover the rest of their energy needs, New Belgium began purchasing wind power in 1999, making it the first wind-powered brewery.

So how have all these efforts affected their bottom line? They don’t really know, Wallace explains. And, frankly, they don’t care. They wouldn’t have it any other way, so it doesn’t really matter. In the video below, Wallace and Glasenapp tell us more about New Belgium’s core values:

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Katie on slideAnother core value New Belgium holds dear is the importance of fun. This, too, is obvious as you tour the brewery. In addition to the bicycles outside (employees are gifted one after a year with the company), we found hula hoops in the lobby, ping pong tables in the bottling warehouse, a three-story swirly slide in the hallway, and a “swing bike” leaning against the fermenting tanks. Says Wallace, “Our founders realized that if it’s not fun, it’s not sustainable.” We’ll drink to that.