I was up in Greeley, Colorado yesterday to meet a friend for lunch. Greeley is a college town (home of the University of Northern Colorado) of about 75,000 people in Northern Colorado, about 70 miles north of Denver and 30 miles east of Fort Collins. Greeley is known for its livestock processing plants, and associated smells, but mostly, the winds (and smells) are blowing eastward away from town. It is a bad rap Greeley has. Despite living in Fort Collins, I never spent much time in Greeley before, as there has never been much of a reason to. Until now.
Since my lunch meeting with my friend was pushed back to noon, I spent a little time visiting the Crabtree Brewery. The Crabtree Brewery is nestled up against the Railroad tracks (what isn't in Greeley) in an industrial part of town. It is located in a nondescript building that looks like an old mill. The grain silos on site may be because of the brewery, but they looked much older.
The brewery itself has been around for three years, but appears to be in a constant state of construction. It was being run by Juan and Jeff both brewing and serving in the tap room. Jeff is the owner and master brewer, and is another example of a homebrewer gone pro. There was one local regular there, Raul, who informed me that this was the better of the two breweries in town (the other one is a brewpub named Pitchers, that I have never been to, so I with hold my opinion). Raul is from Florida via Seattle, and was a self described beer guy. Raul informed me that the brewery recently expanded their tasting room and the work was being done by the band that often plays in the tap room. In the back they also had a climbing wall in the tasting room and darts in the storage room in back. It looks like they probably have trouble keeping people from literally climbing the walls on a busy night. I didn't ask about it though. It could have been a previous incarnation of the space for all I know.
The brewery itself is a 10 barrel system with rectangular stainless steel fermenters and conditioning tanks, all visible from the tap room. They were busy cleaning kegs and filtering beer while I was there, but were friendly enough to answer questions and chit chat while working. It was kind of nice to be so close to the action. This is a small brewery with a local following, which even had a sign up sheet to help with bottling. The tap room did and does not offer food, which is for me, a plus. I like the brewery atmosphere better than the brewpub experience. It is about the beer. The locations tend to be in industrial areas, the interiors tend to be (like the brewery) focused on functional rather than aesthetic, and the servers know about their product. This is my preference and this describes the Crabtree to the tee.
They had 6 or 7 beers on tap and a few more varieties in bottles in the fridge. They were willing to have me taste all of their current taps to find one I liked, but I chose to taste their Pale Ale, Oatmeal Stout, Deerfield Ale (watermelon and some fruit), and Ginger Bee (Ginger beer). They did not have their brown on tap, but allowed me to have a bottle of it as well. I missed the tapping of their Pumpkin Beer by one day (my bad luck to miss it). I enjoyed the Brown Ale and the Oatmeal Stout the most, but my complaint (a small one) about their beers is that it seemed that none of their beers had a nice head upon pouring and the head it did have completely dissipated within seconds. I like all of my beers to have a nice head that remains through the pint, even if the style doesn't call for it. It is just my thing.
The beer is good, the brewery is a fun place, and the staff were friendly and knowledgeable. Nothing about this establishment is frilly, or pretentious, or expensive. The beer is basic to style stuff, and there is not a whole lot of emphasis on extreme beers, with crazy hop schedules, oak aging, or wine-like alcohol content. It is not to say that they don't do it (they did have a pumpkin beer coming out today and other special beers throughout the year), but it is more egalitarian, more blue-collar, like the town itself. I am not sure that they do lagers or just ales, I think all they had were ales at the time, though. They will take the time to help you find a beer of theirs that you like or suits your mood at the time. Needless to say, this is my kind of local brewery. I highly recommend a visit if you are passing through (on your way, perhaps, to Rocky Mountain National Park), or become a regular if you live there.