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Small Ft. Collins brewery can't meet its demand.

Small Ft. Collins brewery can't meet its demand

There's a homebrewed flavor to Colorado's tiniest microbrewery.

Jeff Lebesch and his wife, Kimberly Jordan, have fermented and filled more than 30,000 bottles of beer in a basement brewery adjoining their home in Fort Collins.

Nearly every piece of equipment in the 28-by-11-foot basement of the New Belgium Brewing Co. was designed and constructed by Lebesch, an electrical engineer. And capping off this '90s version of a mom-and-pop business, the family uses a Prohibition-era hand bottle-capper to put a lid on their product.

A part-time employee and occasionally the couple's 6-year-old son Zachary are the family's only helpers in this home-grown enterprise. Even the colorful labels for the New Belgium Brewing Co.'s six varieties of beer, including Fat Tire Amber Ale, were designed by Lebesch and Jordan and painted by a neighbor.

"It's been a lot of work, but it has been really rewarding. And the best part of it all is people like the beer," Lebesch said.

The New Belgium Brewing Co. is the only commercial home brewer and smallest microbrewer in Colorado, according to Jeff Mendel, director of the Boulder-based Institute for Brewing Studies at the Association of Brewers.

Lebesch built most of the brewing equipment - copper conversion heaters to brew hops and malts, and an insulated steel tank.

'We had to do it this way. We didn't have the money to buy new equipment," Lebesch said. "This has probably been my biggest engineering achievement."

Every 22-ounce bottle capped in the brewery is attached with an antique bottle-capper that was purchased at a garage sale.

"It cost me $5. For $5, this is the jewel of cost-effectiveness in the brewery," he said.

Orders have come from as far away as the East and West coasts, and from a liquor commissioner in Ontario, Canada.

"We could sell a lot more beer than we make," Jordan said.

Lebesch first tried making his own beer 11 years ago. "It was horrible," he said.

But he began studying beer and inspected microbreweries in California and Colorado.

Construction of the brewery and approval from federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms officials followed. The first batch was released last summer.

"At first, I thought, |This is nuts. We can't do this.' But we did," Jordan said. "We have a truly hand-crafted product."
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Title Annotation:Fort Collins
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Jan 27, 1992
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