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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.


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  • Red Hoptober is a new beer for fall, and it is really good...

    Fall is here! At least it is in New Belgium seasonal-beer land... Starting August 1st Red Hoptober is officially on beer-shop shelves and in tap lines all across our distribution area. When you're in line at the bar, trying to decide what you want, look for this handle, and then order it. You will not be disappointed (at least I hope not). 

    Let me give you a quick rundown:

    Red Hoptober is the perfect beer for warm days, or cooling nights. Fall is a strange time of year that can require a backpack full of clothes to make it comfortably through a day. You can spend the afternoons hiking around, soaking your cut-off jean shorts in sweat, and then the evenings chilled in a pullover, standing next to a warming campfire. You don't want summer to disappear quite yet, but when it does you might as well have the right beer for the job. And Red Hoptober will make this transition easier...

    Red Hoptober pours a deep and dark red, almost burnt. The foam comes up a tannish-white and billows high, like decorative pillows on the most comfortable bed in the world. The aroma is bold and hoppy. Red Hoptober is dry hopped with Centennial and Eldorado hops, and those are the first things off the nose, lush floral and citrus tones float right up your smell-holes. A malty sweetness is present as well. Some caramel and coffee aromas are unmistakable, but they are hiding behind the hops for sure. When you get into the flavor the hops back off a touch to make room for some fig and toffee and roasted nuts, but the hop bite shows up in the end (for sure). It brings bitterness to refresh and clean your palate. There is a balance in Red Hoptober, but it's teetering towards the hoppy side. It finishes soundly bitter and clean and leaves you wanting more. This beer scores high in my (very biased) book.

    To finish, here is a very big and dramatic shot of a poured up glass of Red Hoptober.

    Now it's time to start your hunt for Red Hoptober...

    Thanks for reading, 


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  • Pow Wow Week

    So here we are, Thursday, mid-morning, and I feel sort of terrible. This week is our bi-annual Pow-Wow, when all of the New Belgium Beer Rangers come home to the Mothership for meetings, presentations and lots of shenanigans (let me again stress the shenanigans). In my current position I am required to be present at a lot of these meetings (sales and branding do go hand in hand you know) and I have learned a lot about the upcoming year and all the big plans being hatched around NBB HQ. We talked a lot yesterday about the forth coming 16oz cans of Shift as well as the new spring seasonal, Dig. Both available soon, and in some markets you can even score Dig now (Lawrence, Kansas, I'm looking at you).  I am also required at a lot of the fun stuff too (I know, it's tough). Some of the other things that generally happen around here for winter Pow Wow are the annual holiday party, the Ultimate Beer Ranger Competition and one of the greatest nights of the year, the Employee Ownership Induction Ceremony.

    For those that don't know, New Belgium is 100% privately held and 100% employee owned. One year from your original hire date you become an owner, it takes a while to show your commitment to the company and to really learn the rights and responsibilities of employee ownership. Our ownership structure is due in large part to our wonderful founders who believed that the brewery would succeed and flourish if everyone had a stake in that success. Through the years the induction ceremony has gotten bigger, but the heart is still there. The new owners are expected to stand up in front of all the other owners and talk about why employee ownership is important to them (or some topic similar). Everyone takes a different approach to this, but there are always tears and hugs and emotions flowing freely. New Belgium is a tight knit community and ownership is one really big reason for the closeness, we are all swimming in this beer together.

    And like I said, some people go with the tears and raw emotions for their own induction speech, and that is how they deal with talking in front of so many people about such close-to-the-heart-kinds-of-things. Now others, they go the other way, they go to jean shorts. If you folks are regular readers of this blog you know my affinity for jean shorts. My love of the jort runs deep, all the way back to my sweaty childhood wearing cut-offs and cowboy boots through those sweltering Missouri summers. So, when this (anonymous) new owner stepped on stage and ripped his pants off, exposing the small swath of blue denim covering his kibbles and bits I had a hard time keeping it together for his speech. He talked of ups and downs and the long road he took to get to where he is, and it was all very emotional. But everyone knows how hard it is to cry when wearing jean shorts and this proved true for the viewer in the audience as well.

    It was an unorthodox approach but it worked, his wardrobe choices kept everyone laughing and drinking (a few folks needed one more beer after his speech, to cool the image that was firmly burned into their mind's eye). After the big night of ownership induction we wandered into the dark night to find watering holes for more whistle wetting and to celebrate and welcome all the new owners to the fold.

    It was a big night on Tuesday and I am riding a wave of recharge and fun that ownership always brings (and my head still hurts a little too). Thanks for reading.

    Until next time- XOXO,


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