With Wayne in town – it was time to explore. I’d always wanted to go see New Belgium Brewery – makers of Fat Tire – and now I had my excuse.
We head up to Fort Collins, hit the brewery and get our tickets for the 1pm tour. It was right at 12, we were hungry, Ft. Collins is a college town so we know we should be able to find a great place to eat for a cheap price. I give you El Burrito.
When the help doesn’t speak English – you know the food is good. And this hole in the wall delivered…big time. 2 big tacos, red chile sauce, rice, beans, tortilla, chips, sopapilla, and drink for under 8 bucks. Great food and delivered fast. Then it was time to head back to the Brewery.
The tour is NOT about how to make beer. The tour is about how New Belgium started and how it is run. It is an hour long leadership seminar.
New Belgium was started by a CSU Electrical Engineer grad. He had a great job, took a vacation in Europe with his mountain bike, spent some time in Belgium touring brewhouses, took notes in his journal on how they made their beer, and came back to brew that same kind of beer in his basement. He made the beer, gave it to his friends and neighbors and a fan base was created.
He never sold his beer. Only gave it way. Then something ridiculous happened. People started asking him to make it for parties, receptions and the like. Fast forward 12 years and his brewery has 250 employee/owners, including our tour guide.
Couple of highlights – in 1998 the entire company voted to be powered by the wind, in spite of being more expensive. They have their own water-treatment plant on their property. They recycle everything.
The moment a person is hired, they are given a key to the brewery. It’s to show the person that they are not just a hireling, but an integral part of the culture. They are trusted to represent NBB well, so they get a key. They can bring friends and family to work to give them a tour. They get a free case of beer a week – completely on the honor system.
They have once a month “All Staff” meetings that consist of eating food, tasting new beers, and celebrating anniversaries. After your first year at NBB, you get stock in the company – which is cool – but what the employees really enjoy is this:
That’s right – the founder rolls in a brand new Belgium Bike – with the fat tires – as a thank you gift to the one year employee.
If you make it to the 5-year marker, you get a week long all expenses paid trip to Belgium with the founder to tour the same breweries he did that inspired him to form NBB.
The tour guide spoke of the companies values of environment, fun, love, and family and how they flesh out those values in their company. You can see those values in how they’ve built their brewery – notice the mosaic tile on the floor. The hold wedding receptions in this place it is so nice.
Here’s Wayne wanting to see exactly what swimming in beer would feel like…
They don’t sell any beer from the tap at the brewery. They give it away. It’s a thank you to anyone who would take the time to come visit them. They just want to carry on a piece of what started the whole thing – a guy sharing his passion with his friends.
It was just so packed full of leadership lessons. On the way home, we visited the largest Harley-Davidson store in Colorado. Wayne found his dream car in the lot – a Pontiac Bonneville.
Great day with a great friend.
[tags]New Belgium Brewery, leadership[/tags]