In the late 1970s and early ’80s, my dad and his friends would make a nearly two-hour drive from Illinois into Missouri for beer, in particular that beer du jour made with Rocky Mountain spring water.
He loves to tell the story, primarily because 20-some years later, he saw me and my friends making the same pilgrimage for the next generation of coveted Colorado beer: Fat Tire. This story is not unique. In fact, the first Fat Tires served in Chicago read, “The First Fat Tire Ale Served (legally) in the Second City” as a nod to the craft beer smuggling we all practiced.
It’s hard to believe that New Belgium — which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, is the fourth-largest craft brewery in the country and brews 1.5 million barrels between its two locations — still leaves residents in Oklahoma, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire waiting to see Fat Tire on their shelves. But that longing is part of New Belgium’s growth and success. “Our strategy has always been to go into a marketplace and really try to be a presence there before we go into a new marketplace,” said Kim Jordan, co-founder and executive chair of New Belgium Brewing.