Celeste O'Connor, and her husband Scott Slusher, two local runners, started the tour in 2008 because they thought it would be a fun way to break out of the mid-winter doldrums, and here in Fort Collins, we have lots of breweries to visit, all within a fairly close proximity. They also thought it would be a challenge in the unpredictable February weather to get some friends together and run between breweries, stopping at each one.
The Tour drew 14 people the first year, and was a fun time. Unfortunately, Celeste's cousin Annie O'Donoghue, who lived in Washington DC, had taken a turn for the worse with her ALS. The day after the tour, Celeste and Scott flew back to see Annie, but Annie died a few days later, so the trip ended up including a funeral.
ALS is a rare disease in the general population, but not in Celeste's family. Another cousin, Bobby, died from ALS a few years after Annie. Celeste and Scott knew that Annie would have loved the beer tour, she had always enjoyed doing fun and interesting things. They decided that they would keep the event going in Annie and Bobby's honor, and make it a fundraiser for ALS, because the disease requires specialized care that comes at a high cost.
This year was a special year, "the best tour ever" according to Celeste, because 26 of her family members attended, from places as spread out as Alaska, Vermont, and Virginia.
The Tour started at 10 am at New Belgium Brewery. It's the first stop because it opens earliest of all the breweries. It also gets very crowded later in the day, so a big influx of people is easier to manage at 10 am. Celeste's family members began to show up, and pretty soon the place was packed with our group. One of the employees at New Belgium got in on the costume theme.
The Jetsons, a space monkey, space travelers, Major Kira (Cat), Captain Kirk (Mike), and Geordi LaForge (me), and a whole bunch of other interesting and creative variations on sci-fi and space outfits were there. Lots of aluminum foil...
Celeste spoke briefly at New Belgium about the theme of the tour, and announced that at each brewery, we were going to toast Annie and Bobby.
Soon we were ready to take off to Fort Collins Brewery, not quite a mile away.At Fort Collins Brewery Scott broke out the donuts, a great accompaniment to beer at 11 am. I didn't have any beer yet, I have tried many of the beers at New Belgium and Fort Collins, but it was also too early for me.
The next stop on the Tour was Funkwerks, the longest leg of the tour. When we arrived, I decided it was time to start tasting. I'd never been to this brewery before. I tried a Saison, which was good. Most of their beers were high in alcohol and it doesn't take much for me. It was so good that I finished it without realizing it.
We took off for Odell Brewery, halfway back to the beginning of the Tour. The weather was starting to get nice, and everyone was taking off layers of clothing underneath their costumes. I ate my snacks that I brought with me, they served french fries and brats at Odell but I didn't think that would agree with my stomach. I opted for a tasting tray instead.
Dennis showed up to meet us there, and he shared the tasting tray with me. I like one of their pale ales, and the Mercenary IPA. Actually I like a lot of Odell beer, but I've already tasted many of them.
I didn't think about it, but for me, IPA tears holes in my stomach, especially when it's empty. I paid for that the rest of the day. We kept toasting Annie and Bobby at each stop on the Tour. At Odell we were all outside, it was so nice, almost 60 degrees and sunny.
Then it was time to move on to Pateros Creek, about 1/2 mile away. The running group had gotten smaller, and we were not moving in as straight of a line as we had earlier. At Pateros Creek, the employees told us that they would donate a dollar for every pint we purchased. Some of the group had thought about skipping Pateros, as it was getting later in the day, but we sent out the message that they were making this donation, so everyone came over. They opened a door for us so we were out in the sunshine.
After the toast, we went on to the last brewery, Equinox. I had never been there before, either. I tasted several of their beers, but I will never be able to remember what I had. I wasn't drunk at all, but I was definitely lightheaded from not eating all day. I did have pretzels there, because I was starving.
We were a loud group on the back patio, doing our final toast to Annie and Bob, then everyone toasted Celeste and Scott, and then Scott gave away prizes donated by Runners' Roost and Lisa at Green Events.I measured 4.2 miles total distance on the Tour. It was time to go back to New Belgium, get my car, and go home. It was nearly 5 pm. Dennis drove me back to New Belgium to get my car, and then we went home. I was toast. I finally ate some real food, and then I was done for the day. Quite the endurance event.
I'm glad to see the event become such a success and that Celeste's family were able to join everyone on the Tour this year. Celeste's family was a fun, lively group of people and I could tell they had a blast on the Tour. It's a compelling story, and Scott told me that there were complete strangers in town who would stop to ask what we were doing in our costumes. When Scott told them the story behind it, they would offer donations, without him asking for anything.
It's grown a lot since I last participated in 2010, I missed the last two years because it fell on my work weekend. It's a fun way to spend a mid-winter day in Fort Collins. We're so lucky to live in this city with great beer and sometimes mild winter weather, streets wide enough and drivers tolerant enough to accomodate crazy, maybe even a little tipsy, runners in costumes.
I'm writing more about the Human Powered Brewery Tour, it will be in the Xplore section of the Coloradoan, our local paper, on February 24th, in The Running Life column that I write monthly. Here are some pictures from the Tour: