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  • Let's go to Western Heritage, the coolest little foundry in the west.

    At New Belgium we take our soft-goods and swag pretty seriously. From kites to garden-markers we have sold some pretty memorable merchandise. But these new belt buckles we're getting might be the coolest thing yet. They're made in Loveland, Colorado at Western Heritage. A couple days ago some of us were lucky enough to go down the road and see the place for ourselves.

    Western Heritage makes belt buckles, and small sculptures, and lots of other (awesome) stuff cast in bronze, silver alloy, sterling, and even gold. They're pretty famous for making these: 

    That is the official uniformed buckle of the U.S. Forest Service. On one's first day as a Ranger one gets their pants and hat and other uniform-based equipment. Included in that is one's very own belt buckle. Western Heritage makes these buckles for the government, and they are super sweet. I asked (very nicely), and they still wouldn't give me one.

    But, back to the tour. Walking in the door to this fantastic old building your eyes are greeted with the original hardwoods and exposed brick, and some of the finest stamped-tin ceiling I have ever seen (and no, I didn't get any pictures). This was followed by a sweet coffee mug (to take home), some doughnuts (to eat there), and smiling faces. Everyone I met at Western Heritage was really excited to be at work. This is common around NBB too, so it was something I could relate to. After getting the nickel tour of the offices (highlights: 3-D printer, kegerator, and a pewter platypus), we headed into the shop. 

    To cast a belt buckle you have to make a mold. These molds (at Western Heritage) are circles of rubber, each with 6 molds in them. These folks have been in business over 30 years, they have a lot of molds:

    When the mold is made, you spin wax into it, in order make a wax version of the upcoming buckle. Here's our's:

    In that photo you can also see a sweet mustache mold. This is not part of our buckle, but I wish it was...

    Then, about six of those wax buckles are put into a small bucket and plaster is poured in around them. The plaster forms around the wax, it hardens, and then the wax is melted out. This leaves behind reliefs of the buckles in a material (plaster) that can take the heat of pouring molten bronze into it. It's at this point the metal goes in. I took no pictures during this step because it was dark and hot and not that photogenic. The bronze goes in about 1800°, it pours in liquid. After a few minutes it hardens up and the mold gets taken out back for cooling and plaster removal. Really, it's just dipped into barrel of weird looking water water:

    See those buckles? So cool...

    After the cool down the buckles get a lot of finish work. Cutting, polishing (like 12 kinds of buffing), and then drilled for the bail (that's the wire on the back that holds it to your belt), and then it's ready (I also took no pictures of this part because there was just too many steps, I lost track, got confused, and then gave up...). Making belt buckles is a mind-bogglingly labor intensive process. The folks at Western Heitage are really good at it too. When all is said and done our buckle looks like this:

    Pretty good, right?

    So, if you want one (and I bet you do) you'll have to come to the brewery. They're $50, but the craftsmanship... totally worth it. Or, give it a few weeks and they should show up at our on-line store.

    Otherwise, follow the link to Western Heritage, check out their stuff, and have a nice weekend.

    _JUICEBOX

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  • Happy Thanksgiving (time to get the beer and turkey together).

    The (Thanksgiving) holidays are upon us, and there is no pair quite like turkey and beer (Frambozen, specifically). But it's so much more than that. I also like pairing beer with giving thanks to all the awesome people and experiences in my life. I like pairing beer with soft pretzel stuffing. I like pairing beer with more beer and heated discussions on the cost/benefit analysis of building a giant pirate ship in the empty lot next to my house. 

    This is the greatest holiday of all time, please enjoy it. And, from all of us, to all of you... Happy Thanksgiving.

    Next, you're going to ask "Did this guy stuff Fat Tire into his turkey? And why isn't he wearing a shirt? Is that sanitary?" And the answers are "yes," "I'm not sure," and "probably not."

    Again, happy Thanksgiving everybody. Remember to bring out some nice beers and share them with your friends and family, and remember to call the family and friends that you don't get to see on Thursday (and tell them that you love them), and remember to make soft pretzel stuffing (seriously, it's the best).

    Talk to you next week!

    -Juicebox

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  • The holidays are over, time to treat yourself...

    There are a few things that one must wait for; the doctor, good tomato plants, reliable NBC Thursday night programming, these things take patience. Another is treating yourself to a holiday gift. Just recently was the time of year that we must put others first, but now that's over now and we can start thinking of ways to spend money on ourselves.

    Here at NBB HQ we have a few things going that fit into that self-serving-shoe very well, and you can still reap a few holiday benefits to boot (more shoe pun).

    Idea number one: You bought some New Belgium Glassware for your friends and family this year but you neglected to stock your own cabinet. Wait no longer, The Glass That Gives is still giving and still going. Head over here and buy a two pack of these nucleated beauties for only nine bucks (per set of two) and receive free shipping (FREE SHIPPING!). You can also still enter to win free glassware if it ever snows again in Fort Collins. And when you do something nice for yourself we are going to do something nice for others. Every $9 NBB glassware purchase constitutes a $1 donation to a really good cause. Follow that link above for all the details and all the good causes. Come on, you deserve some new glassware after all the selfless acts you did this holiday season.

    Idea number two: After you buy the glassware from idea number one you are going to need beer to put in them. A Folly Pack is just the thing for you. This is 4 different beers in one 12 pack, three of each. And right now those four beers are Fat Tire, Ranger, Trippel and Snow Day, a nice mix indeed (the four beer rotation rotates seasonally). These beers are the perfect blend of hoppy and Belgian styles and the box would fit just perfect in your refrigerator. Do not hesitate.

    Idea number three: OK, so this one is technically a collaboration between New Belgium and Wolverine Farm Publishing but a great book anyway. The Tour de Fat coffee table book is a great way for you to spend some of that free time now that your in-laws have left town. This (mostly) picture book is easy to peruse while sipping on one of the beers from your Folly Pack directly out of one of your new New Belgium globe glasses. It is a chance for you to re-live all of your TdF memories and glean some costume ideas for next year, not to mention learning the history and meeting the people behind such a fun event. Head over to Wolverine Farm Publishing's website to pick one up. And while you are over there (at WFP's site) make sure to pick up something else too. They put out a number of great things (Matter 14: Animal for instance) that need to be on your coffee tables and book shelves. Smart reading for smart people (that is me pandering to you... (it feels nice, huh?)).

    Get while the gettin's good and do something good for yourself. That is all.

    xoxo,

    JUICEBOX

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  • Frambozen is back (for a while now)!

    Alright, so this post is a little late, but man I have been really busy lately talking about other things, and it's not like it's too late to talk about it... So with out further ado---> FRAMBOZEN IS BACK!  This beer comes out every year in time for service to your best Thanksgiving guests and it stays on the shelves long enough to see the new year.  Which is to say long enough to serve at all of your holiday gatherings and happenings.  Frambozen is a raspberry brown ale that carries the wonderful sweetness and the casual tartness of the raspberry.  Every year some NBB folks find a raspberry crop they like, they have it juiced and then sent over to NBB HQ.  This is first pressing juice, not concentrate, and we store it in a refrigerated vessel in wait until then base brown ale is ready.  Once the base beer is brewed and fermented and ready for the blending they fine folks in NBB's Church of Fermentology blend the two together.  When together the beer and the raspberry juice marry for a few days, celebrating and becoming one (instead of two) and the alcohol preserves the juice and the juice enlivens the beer.  What you get is a wonderful fruit beer with rich, dark malt tones and then smiles on every mouth that takes the time to sip it.  Frambozen is worth coveting and a it's beer worth sharing with your most loved family and friends.  It should be on the shelves in a beer shop near you right now (as we speak), check the Libation Location for more details about Frambozen in your town.

    And speaking of Libation Location the beer finder can now differentiate package from draft!  This is big news if you want to find a bar with Frambozen (or whatever beer you're looking for) rather than a beer shop (or vice-versa).  So take this knowledge and apply it!  Get the good times rolling and remember ol' Juicebox on those gift lists, I like stuff too.

    xoxo,

    Juicebox

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  • Bend, Oregon, it has beer and fun and stuff...

    I spent the recent Thanksgiving holiday in the great Pacific Northwest of the United States of America (Bend, Oregon (specifically)) and it was super fun.  I have some family up there, a brother, sister-in-law and their lovely and obedient child.  My wife and (equally as cheerful) child accompanied me up there and when all was said and done my parents also graced us with an appearance.  Family gatherings are the bees knees, there are hugs and kisses and big meals, reminiscing about the good ol' days, hilarious and kind of mean jokes about the clothes that we all used to wear in the 1990's and free baby-sitting.  This last one is pretty special because it is about the clearest win/win of all time.  The grandparents want to spend as much time as possible with the little ones and the parents are looking to have some laughs and time away from their loved (but ever-present) children. 

    Wednesday afternoon was the perfect escape.  The grandparents were primed for some babysitting and the parents loaded up and headed into town to explore some of the local craft beer offerings.  Bend is known for beer, there are something like 12 breweries in town varying in size from pretty big to really small.  There were 4 of us and reaching a tap-room consensus was close to impossible, but with the help of some rock-paper-scissors and one round of spirited thumb wrestling we settled on Bend Brewing and 10 Barrel Brewing Company.  A short list indeed, but the baby-sitting time was limited and the sister-in-law performing the designated driver duties was also performing dinner cooking duties and still needed to do some shopping and roasting and chopping and such. 

    First stop 10 Barrel.  When we got there I was taken aback by how busy it was.  It was 11:15am on a Wednesday.  They do serve food and it was a holiday week, but wow, there were a lot of people in there (very good sign).  We ordered a sampler, 10 beers organized on an arching stainless steel tray that suspended the beers off the table top, giving the beverages a very modern feel, so I used an old-timey camera app on my phone for a great juxtaposition.  The tray came with every beer that was on tap that day minus the cask conditioned Big Black Stout (which I ordered separately).  They were all pretty tasty but the Sasquatch Session was great.  Hoppy but not overly so, just bitter enough to be quenching and a good sweetish, malt backbone for balance.  But I do have to say upon my first sip I didn't like this beer.  After I put it down that first time I figured I would just concentrate on the rest of the beers, but a few minutes (like 10) later I went back to it by accident, I thought I was grabbing the IPA but took the Sasquatch by mistake.  In that 10 minutes this beer opened up.  Maybe it was the warmth it took on, giving it time to breathe, whatever, that beer started to sing a little louder.  This beer turned from a side note to a symphony and I am glad I went back, even if I meant to grab something else.  The malt was more pronounced and struck a better balance with the hops.  The bitter profile was still present but after warming the Sasquatch became more of a two sided beer.  And I love the low alcohol, session beers, it's written into my genetic code.  So when a craft brewery makes an approachable, low octane beer my heart rejoices, nice work 10 Barrel, Sasquatch is a winner.  Some other highlights from the tray were the Pumpkin, the Red and the non-cask Stout, wonderful beers.  After working our way through the tasters and noticing that soft pretzels were not on the menu (that otherwise looked delicious) we moseyed towards the door with Bend Brewing Company on the mind.

    We walked in the door and were immediately hugged by the greatness that is the Bend Brewing Company.  This has been a favorite place of mine since I first went to Bend in 1999, way back when I was not much into beer, but the friendly nature of the staff as well as the wonderful libations have always kept BBC close to my heart and here and now, in 2011, their spot (in my heart) is growing.  Again we ordered the taster tray.  All the beers came on a branded tray marked with a spot for each beer.  Along side the full time offerings were a few seasonal and special release beers, the two that caught my eye right away were Sexi Mexi and Ching Ching.  Sexi Mexi was inspired by Mexican spiced chocolate and carries the sweet/spice of a deep and rich mole' sauce.  Drinking this beer was a deep and warming experience.  Sexi Mexi is strong and bold and if I ever encounter it again I will have a full glass, it was very good. Ching Ching was also sitting on the tray begging to be tried.  I missed this beer at GABF and I am really kicking myself for not trying it there, Ching Ching took home a bronze medal in the American-style Sour category in 2011 and that is a category special to all New Belgium co-workers (think Le Terroir).  Ching Ching is a tart Berlinerweisse spiced with hibiscus and pomegranate.  Looking at the taster glass on the tray Ching Ching looks like pink champagne, very light in color, vaguely turbid, bubbly but little head to speak of.  I sipped this beer and was blown away.  It was markedly sour with a punchy and crisp flavor, the pomegranate jumped out to sweeten the tongue and fine bubbles of carbonation tickled the back of my nose.  It finished dry and clean and really made me want more (and more) Ching Ching, so I bought a bottle that will make an appearance at the next classy bottle party that requires my attendance (send me an invite).  We also sampled some food at BBC.  Alas, they didn't have soft pretzels either but at this point we were to hungry to be picky, fries with mustard and some dip of the spinach/artichoke variety was consumed and I relaxed with a big glass of Outback (which is an Old Ale and a very good beer) for the pairing.  After plates were cleared and beers were finished we headed towards home, happy, satisfied and ready to relieve the baby-sitters.

    This trip to Bend was a great one and if you ever find yourself there drink some beer, you will not regret it (at all).

    -Juicebox

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  • Presents!

    The giving-of-gift-type holidays are upon us and I am here to make sure you fine people make the right choices in the what to give your loved ones department...  Let me take this moment and introduce Shelby.  Shelby is a member of the New Belgium family and the head-artist-in-charge over at Meadowlark Creative, a local letterpress shop here in the Northern Colorado area.  Shelby was commissioned to make some coaster calenders in the NBB theme. A coaster calender is exactly what it sounds like, coasters (beer mats) that double as a monthly calender.  We like them a lot, and we figured they would make great gifts...

    Unsure about letterpressing?  Here is a blurb from the mouth of Shelby herself-

    Sometime inbetween the invention of movable type and proliferation of 24-hour copy centers, the craft of letterpress printing evolved from an essential trade to a forgotten one. Abandoned by all but a few craftsmen, the art of letterpress printing became that of a bygone era. Printing, it seemed, had lost its soul, its beauty, and its individuality.

    Meadowlark Creative is bringing it back.

     

    And with gusto. These Calenders are made by hand in Shelby's shop.  Each coaster was hand-fed 3 separate times into her vintage 10x15 Chandler and Price letterpress for three "hits" per coaster.  She printed 450 calenders sets with 13 coasters per set, that comes to 39 feedings at 450 times (holy smokes... that's 17,550 total impressions).  All said and done Shelby said it took her 30 hours to get them all done, pressed, organized and packed.

    It was totally worth the effort, they look amazing, and you should buy a set.  There are two ways for you to purchase these little gems. 

    Way one:  Head right over to Shelby's Etsy page at http://www.meadowlarkcreative.etsy.com and purchase direct from the artist.

    Way two:  Come on in to the brewery and buy from us.  The advantage to coming by the Liquid Center for purchase is that you also receive a beetle-kill wood stand for great displaying of the coasters in question (and you get to enjoy a beer or two). 

    This is a great gift idea for everyone who needs to take note of the date (which I assume is almost everyone).  So get after it friends, it is time to bring handmade back into our collective lexicon and give gifts of meaning that were made with love.

    _Juicebox

    PS... Photo credits go to Carrie Burger (she did a real nice job).

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