By Matt Minich
Late this summer, two new bars opened in Fort Collins. One has been widely publicized; the other has intentionally been kept secret. The owner of one is a retired real estate mogul, the other a heavily tattooed high school dropout. In many ways, The Mayor of Old Town and The Forge Publick House are completely different places. But they both want the same customer: you.
If you’re into the sudsy stuff, that is. The bars cater to a growing crowd of beer enthusiasts in Fort Collins, and each carry more than 100 different beers. Their beer lists include local favorites, Colorado classics, and imports from across the country and the globe.
The One You’ve Probably Heard Of
Kevin Bolin opened the Mayor of Old Town this July, just more than two years after he sold a successful real estate business and retired. His new creation, which sits just north of campus on Mason Street, is the realization of a long time dream. It’s also the most sophisticated beer-serving machine Northern Colorado has ever seen.
Behind the bar at the Mayor are 100 tap handles, each connected by a series of tubes to a kind of frozen underground bunker that holds 160 half-barrel kegs. Each of those kegs – kept at a cool 30.5 degrees Fahrenheit – is wired with a wireless transmitter. These transmitters connect to a Dr. Claw-style computer system, which notifies Bolin every time the beer is too warm, too foamy, or the keg is almost tapped. At that point, the keg is swapped out with a new variety of brew.
This whole thing is tied into a massive computer screen above the bar, which displays the 100 beers currently on tap. This constant state of change means there is no permanent beer list, a consequence not lost on Bolin.
“I want people to ask about the beer,” he said. “I want it to be like a record store. At a record store, your employees say, ‘You like Pink Floyd?’ Then [the customer] might say ‘Yes.’ [And you have them try something different that still fits with their tastes.] We want them to do that with our beers.”
And that’s just the mentality staffers at the Mayor take to beer. From busboys to bartenders, each of them has undergone a four-week beer boot camp and regularly tastes the new flavors as they come through. Most of them even taste the new flavors on the clock.
Of course, it’s not all about the beer. The Mayor also serves wine and hard alcohol. But don’t expect any Rumplemintz or Jagermeister – the bar has no intention of catering to the shot-guzzling nightclub crowd.
“This place is for the professional beer geeks,” said bar manager Michelle Peth.
The bar is marketed toward anyone who loves beer, she said, but not those just looking for a cheap drink. If the world of Belgian and sour beers is a foreign one to you, though, don’t fret. The bar always has one tap handle reserved for Bud Light. Here we go.
The One You Might Never Find
At the Forge Publick House, they have a saying: If you want to know where it is, ask your friends. If your friends don’t know where it is, you might be hanging out with the wrong people.
That suits the bar well because, for all its fine qualities, Forge is not a well-oiled beer-serving machine. It’s more of, well, a pub.
There are only six actual taps, but the full beer list includes about 120 beers. Many of those beers are imports, and are served in individual 12-ounce bottles or 32-ounce bombers. The list doesn’t rotate often, but the selection has enough to satisfy the finest palates.
The bar itself takes up about a third of the space inside, and the bare brick walls are decorated with rotating artwork.
Forge is the brainchild of Nathan Myrick, a high-school dropout who started his first business on money he earned behind the bar. Forge is Myrick’s third bar: he owns similar establishments in Big Sur and Santa Cruz.
Myrick just recently made the move from California to Fort Collins with his wife, who is attending vet school at CSU. It didn’t take long before he realized the town was a ripe market for fine beers.
“People in this town just love beer,” he said. “But all the bars have the same six things on tap. People were ready for a change.”
And that’s just the point. For all their differences, Fort Collins’ two newest bars are serving up something different from the standard bar scene. They aren’t likely to be the hottest destinations on a Friday or Saturday night, but chances are they won’t have many empty seats either. Fort Collins, after all, loves a good beer.
The Mayor of Old Town is located at 632 South Mason Street; more information is available at themayorofoldtown.com. You can find the Forge Publick House by asking your bar scene-savvy friends (P.S. It’s in an alley off of Linden St.) or by “liking” Forge Publick House on Facebook.