During my time at Colorado State, I worked as a tour guide through the Admissions Office. One question people would frequently ask me, besides, “How big are the dorms?” (it varies), “What’s the deal with the legal marijuana?” (still illegal on campus) and “What’s the difference between you and University of Colorado?” (insert clever joke that Max removed because he’s a CU alum), was, “What made you want to live in Fort Collins?” The answer would usually involve something about the feel of the place — an atmosphere that is hard to describe but very easy to recognize once you’ve been here long enough. Nowhere in the rolling hills of Horsetooth or the broad avenues of Old Town is that feeling more present than Equinox Brewing.
My first trip to Equinox was a few Summers ago. It was the final week of student teaching, and I was meeting some fellow student teachers for a drink to celebrate the ending of our long, strenuous, adventure. One of them suggested Equinox, and we promptly spent the rest of that lazy June afternoon soaking up the atmosphere, sharing “war stories”, and putting back quite a few more beers than we should have. For that reason, I’ve always associated the place with summer, and make a point to come back at least once before the summer’s end.
Equinox is easy to miss if you don’t already know where it is: a small brick building with a modest sign just around the corner from the bigger sights and shops of Old Town. One part hippie, one part hipster, and one part good local beer, Equinox is a staple of the downtown Fort Collins scene and a favorite among locals. Besides a welcoming and cozy indoor area, the taproom features a wonderful patio, complete with shady, leafy vines that let you find that perfect mixture of sunshine and shade. The patio also features a consistent stream of live, mellow music to fit their lively, mellow feel.
- Style: Kölsch
- ABV: 5.8%
- IBU: 24
Equinox advertises the Cosmic Kolsch as the “perfect late-summer drink”, and, seeing as it was about as late into summer as one could get, I knew I had to start here. A nice foamy head and a strong bready aroma drew me right in. The beer was dazzlingly clear, with the foam sliding down the bottle in the most satisfying of ways. As a fan of light beer, I found it just as flavorful as I wanted it to be, with the maltiness present before, during, and after each sip. Unlike other Kolsches I’ve had that run a little more hoppy or bitter, this guy was nice and mild, especially on the aftertaste, perfect if you like to err on the not-so-bitter side. A chill, mellow drink for a chill, mellow late-summer afternoon.
Picasso Pale Ale
- Style: American Pale Ale
- ABV: 5.2%
- IBU: 41
By the time I had finished my Kolsch, the bluegrass players — a mandolin/guitar duo — had began plucking away in the corner, so I figured I needed something with a little more kick or I’d likely doze off in the shade. The Picasso Pale Ale hits with the hop flavor relatively quickly; maltiness gives way to piney hoppiness, particularly on the back end. The brew uses only Mosaic hops, giving the beer a wide array of many different notes: fruit, pine, sweetness, even a hint of grass. The color is almost that of a deep rust, darker than I had expected. If you’re a fan of something that feels like an American IPA but isn’t quite as potent, you’ll probably enjoy this guy.
- Style: British IPA
- ABV: 6.25%
- IBU: 58
With the Sunday afternoon in full swing, I decided to sample two more of Equinox’s selections so I could justify lazing around there a little longer. My first go was a full on IPA with a name that my science nerd girlfriend would definitely have appreciated. It’s a good pun, because as you may know, a SMASH beer is one that utilizes a Single Malt And a Single Hops. Science puns. Nice and clear with little head, this was a smooth drinking IPA that didn’t quite feel as bitter as I had expected it to be. The beer boasts a notable lemongrass note, something that helped to balance some of the malt and hoppiness out. The finish was mild and reinvigorating, though by the end of my half-pint I was pretty satisfied and glad I didn’t get a full one.
- Style: Honey Nut Cheerio Brown Ale
- ABV: 5.75%
- IBU: 30
My final beer was one that instantly caught my attention, as it was a brown ale (not one of my favorites) that boasted Honey Nut Cheerios (absolutely one of my favorites) as part of the mix. I couldn’t turn it down, and I’m very glad I didn’t. The first sip is delightful, sweet and bready without being overpowering. The cereal flavor is certainly there, and the bartender noted that 30 boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios go into each batch. This didn’t feel like a gimmick, though; you’ve got a solid, classic, low-bitterness brown ale under the honey and oat flavors. A guest brew from local homebrewer Alex Grote, this guy was exactly what I wanted in a brown ale.
In a town utterly inundated with local breweries and taprooms, Equinox remains one of my favorites because of how well it captures that Fort Collins “feel”. Hip without being in-your-face about it, personality that isn’t an overdone gimmick, and that fun combination of small-town culture and big-city quality that typifies Fort Collins. If you’re looking for a good place to spend a sunny afternoon, perhaps after a long semester of student teaching, you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere better.
- Address: 133 Remington St, Fort Collins, CO 80524
- Phone: (970) 484-1368