Red Truck Beer Company Revs Engines in Fort Collins
Many craft beer fans are apt to consider Fort Collins, Colorado as integral to the genesis of America’s craft beer boom. It’s not uncommon to hear this northern Colorado town described as the “Napa Valley of Craft Beer.” With this in mind, it is understandable that the introduction of any new brewery could prove challenging. It is an even more daunting task then to bring an established brewery from a foreign country and set up the first state-side shop in the former lot where long-time beer veterans Fort Collins Brewery stood (FCB was acquired by the Vancouver brewery last year). While a hefty endeavor indeed, the crew at Red Truck Beer Company relished the idea of such a challenge.
The Vancouver brewery opened the doors to the Truck Stop, their Fort Collins location, on August 17; they did not disappoint. We had the chance to discuss the opening with general manager, Laird Mulderink, who shared the process behind the opening. We also spoke with head brewer Shaun Salyards, previously of Fort Collins Brewery and Snowbank Brewing, who provided insight on the 18 (yes, 18) beers on tap.
Red Truck Brewing is a staple in Vancouver known for a no-nonsense attitude and down-home feel, both of which translate directly to the Fort Collins location. While it may not be readily apparent to us, Mulderink and his team believe the Red Truck brand fits perfectly in Colorado.
“The lifestyle of the outdoors, biking, the mountains, winter and summer sports and music: We’re big into all of these,” he told us. Plus, the craft beer culture of Colorado drew Red Truck in, rather than scaring them away.
Red Truck’s initial offering includes 18 different brews ranging from a black lager and coffee brown to a kettle sour and Hefeweizen. The list is extensive, but the beauty stems from the fact that there’s something for nearly every beer drinker.
“We will…brew a wide variety of styles to suit all craft beer drinkers,” Mulderink said. “We won’t apologize for making sessionable beers. We want our brewers to…create styles that appease the different drinkers coming to the Truck Stop or the local establishments selling our beers.”
18 beers can be overwhelming for both the newbie and experienced beer drinker alike, but the goal is a menu that is approachable without sacrificing the spirit of craft beer.
New Kid on the Block
As would be expected, the task of opening a brewery in a city already home to a number of notable beer makers was challenging, but Mulderink and his team were not afraid of the challenge. In fact, they took the opportunity to engrain Red Truck into the Fort Collins community from the get-go.
“The beer industry is notorious for being friendly and collaborative,” Mulderink said. “Fort Collins has a tight-knit group of brewers that is very welcoming. Being the newest in town means we wanted to make friends with the brewers, local beer drinkers and community as a whole.”
A great sign for the brewery is their quick integration into the community before the taproom even opened. Besides Mulderink, who previously came from Rockyard Brewing, 100% of the Truck Stop staff is from the northern Colorado community. One of the brewery’s launch beers, a Brut Fruit Belgian, was a collaboration with Funkwerks, Rally King, CB& Potts, Black Bottle Brewery and Colorado State University. But expanding to a different country didn’t seem to Phase Red Truck: They wanted to bring the culture and branding from Vancouver (as well as the materials used in the brewery and kitchen in Fort Collins) while still incorporating a uniquely Colorado feel.
A Truckin’ Good Time
Judging from the crowd who attended the private soft opening, the opening itself was a success. Entering the space, patrons are greeted with a vibe that combines a diner, barn party and state-of-the-art brewery into one fresh package. From the cases of cold canned beer to the huge bar and 18 taps behind it to the hardwood floors and metal pipe fixtures, the feeling takes into account the eclectic pieces of Colorado’s residents and blends them into one smooth ambiance.
Live music is an integral part of Red Truck’s mission, as evidenced by the Red Truck Stage located front and center in the indoor portion of the taproom. The band played a smattering of great music: a blend of folk and red-dirt country.
The kitchen was fully stocked and pumped out offerings like buffalo fries and double-decker grilled cheese, the epitome of refined bar food.
Choosing which beer (or beers) to drink had to be the most difficult part of the night. Of the 18 beers, 14 of them are the product of head brewer Shaun Salyards. Original recipes (while still maintaining the integrity of the brand) is the name of the game and Salyards does it well.
Several beers stood out, like the coffee brown. We usually see coffee used in stouts and porters but Salyards nailed the balance this brown struck between the bitterness of the coffee and the roasted nutty flavor of a traditional brown.
The kettle sour was another favorite. The style is traditional in the sense that there is no named fruit as the focus of this sour; the pucker is intense but ultimately very satisfying. Though slightly darker, the kettle sour looked like a Hefeweizen, displaying that thick haziness that coats the inside of the glass.
Some other standouts of the long list included the Doppelbock and the Farmhouse Ale, made with a 23-year-old yeast strain.
Red Truck Beer Company will eventually open a taproom and brewery in RiNo, offering 12-18 taps from a 10-barrel system. An opening date for this location has yet to be determined.
Meanwhile in Fort Collins, Red Truck Brewing is eager to become further engrained in the Fort Collins beer scene—and it shows. From the excellent beer and food to the laid back and fun atmosphere of the Truck Stop, Red Truck is well on their way to becoming a household name among craft beer drinkers in Northern Colorado.