The craft beer market has exploded and it is particularly popular on the Coast. Beer drinkers love the unusual, daring new flavors. People are intrigued and want to try them, curiosity is at an all time high. Craft Beer has shaken up the status quo in a big, big way. The industry welcomed a new kid on the block in 1991, New Belgium Brewing out of Fort Collins, Colorado. It is nestled next to the Cache La Poudre River. Fat Tire Amber Ale arrived on the scene to rave reviews and with great anticipation. It is just one of their many, unique and distinctive brews you can find right here in South Mississippi. Each is quite memorable for color, body, and aroma, and the variation of flavors is like nothing you ever tasted before. An added bonus on each bottle and can is the wonderful, whimsical artwork that New Belgium is also famous for.
It all began when founders Jeff Lebesch and his then wife, Kim Jordan (CEO of New Belgium Brewing), brewed beer at home in their basement just for fun. Soon word got around town that it was really good and they established a solid fan base and a steady clientele. There was also quite a buzz about the interesting labels. Fat Tire was the first introduction commercially but four more beers were released around the same time. Twenty three years later, New Belgium is now one of America’s largest and fastest growing breweries. It is a company dedicated to excellence. All employees and staff members work incredibly hard and they genuinely care about one another and the world around them. “It’s magical…the combination of love, excellence, knowledge, and good intentions, “Kim Jordan said.
The Fat Tire recipe is the result of a trip to Belgium where Jeff visited brewery after brewery on a bicycle! He found traveling through the Belgian countryside very inspiring. Upon his return to the U. S Jeff went back to the drawing board and chose to blend biscuit like malt flavors with hops for his very special new beer. The logo for New Belgium Brewing was fashioned to pay homage to the well-known Fat Tire brand bicycle because of the impact it had on Jeff during his travels throughout Europe.
All labels for New Belgium were designed by watercolorist, Anne Fitch. The one-of-a-kind labels were very pleasing to the eye, wonderful illustrations that people found irresistible. Kim Jordan, always felt that Anne’s labels had a lot to do with the tremendous success of the product line. Ann Fitch retired from commercial production recently and although she will be terribly missed, New Belgium is excited to try something new and evolve their beer portfolio. This year New Belgium is introducing a brand new label design that enhances the iconic watercolor images using a more modern view. The colorful, handcrafted look has been updated with a fresh new perspective featuring illustrations by artist Leah Giberson. The new design was created by Hatch Design of San Francisco. Every image starts as a photograph and has been repainted by hand. The new labels were revealed in Ohio to celebrate the addition of this new market to the New Belgium family in December, 2013.
Eco-friendly business practices are most important to New Belgium Brewing. Sustainable practices include diverting 95% of their waste from landfill. The company is the largest private consumer of wind power in America and has won numerous awards for conservation efforts. The dedication to social and environmental principals never waivers. NBB has been named the best place to work in America by Outside Magazine and it is no wonder. Keeping the employees happy and healthy is also a number one priority.
Today New Belgium employs 500 people and sales exceeded 180 million in 2013. In January of last year the company became 100 percent employee owned. Every owner receives a custom made cruiser bike to remind them of the prolific journey that started it all for Jeff Lebesch and the launch of Fat Tire. The journey is relived by employees celebrating their five year anniversaries. Kim Jordan leads them on a one week tour of Belgium where they bike from brewery to brewery, taking tours and hanging out together. “It is an amazing bonding experience,” she said. Employees who mark their 10 year anniversary get a four week sabbatical.
There is a very laid back, easy going vibe at the Fort Collins brewery. It is clear that everyone loves what they do and thoroughly enjoys being a part of it. The company boasts quite a list of amateur artists who routinely display their talents at an annual art show and arts-and-crafts fair. There are all kinds of festivals and fund raising events that take place throughout each year including a traveling film festival and scavenger hunts on the mountains. There is never a shortage of interesting activities and everyone takes part in whatever is going on. This is a family in every sense of the word.
New Belgium Brewing is always run under an open book management plan. The company allows every one of the employees (owners) access to all financials with the exception of salary information. A monthly meeting informs co-workers about the latest news, and annually they meet offsite for Strategic Planning. Everyone is personally involved in helping make business decisions and nothing is more important than the collective, the company as a whole. Core values mean everything to New Belgium and they practice what they preach.
The philanthropy program was conceived in 1995. NBB donates $1.00 per barrel of beer sold to non-profit organizations in the communities where their beer is sold. The creation of traveling special events, such as the Tour de Fat and the Clips Beer & Film Tour, donate all proceeds to local no-profit organizations. Environmental Stewardship Grants for this year include: Youth Environmental Education, Sustainable Agriculture, Sensible Transportation & Bike Advocacy, and Water Stewardship. Grants focus on four strategies to mitigate human impacts on the planet. The philanthropic committee is the backbone of this program. In 2013, co-workers also donated over 2500 hours to help within the community.
The company is expanding and is in the process of building another brewery in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina, in the River Arts District. It will be the site of their east coast brewery, sitting on 17.5 acres. The facility will be 150,000 square feet with a planned annual brewing capacity of 400,000 barrels. The projected timeline is to be brewing beer in Asheville by the end of 2015. The new brewery will create over 140 jobs over time.