By Lincoln Greenhaw
Behind the steel and glass window that separates the Fort Collins Brewery from its new in-house restaurant, Gravity Ten-Twenty, I watched the employees polishing up the futuristic machinery behind the bar before the afternoon patio crowd started to pour in.
“It’s an automated growler filler,” Tobi Bean, the restaurant’s General Manager said, as I marveled at a giant stainless steel robot filling half-gallons of beer behind the bar. “There are only seven of them in the United States. Ours has lights and funny noises and it blows stuff everywhere,” she said. This technology seemed promising.
The restaurant, which opened in May, (and which is really good, to skip the suspense) is part of the new complex that the brewery erected last year at the corner of 1020 East Lincoln Avenue. Its angular architecture neatly complements the Odell and New Belgium breweries, which are within hailing distance.
Fort Collins Brewery’s decision to open a restaurant in this area full of pastures and beer gardens reflects a deeper mission to integrate the future farm culture of Fort Collins with the beer and afternoon idleness for which we are already known.
“When we were designing a kitchen, we designed it without a walk-in freezer – and without heat lamps and steam tables – so that we would have to always think on our toes,” Bean said.
This approach, which forces the restaurant to use a large percentage of local ingredients, is known as “field to fork,” and it determines the everyday schedule of the staff as well as the major features of the menu.
“If it’s from Colorado and it’s amazing, then we will do our very best to get it,” Bean said.
But if you are not in the mood to order ten cows at once from a local farm, that goal could be hard to achieve.
Enter Ben and Elizabeth Mozer, who own the Lyric Cinema in Old Town. Their new company, Loco Foods, aims to provide local farms with dependable distribution to local businesses like Gravity Ten-Twenty – a smaller version of the system that much larger farms and corporations use.
“It’s a zillion different orders, a zillion different checks, a zillion different deliveries,” Elizabeth said of buying local. “The time has come for the infrastructure to be put in place.”
Taking advantage of that infrastructure, the menu at Gravity Ten-Twenty is itself a mix of the new and the comfortable. There are pork chops breaded in barley snatched from the brewing process, beer-battered Atlantic cod fish and chips, smoked grits finished with smoked Z-Lager…the list goes on.
“If it doesn’t have beer in it, it goes great with our beer,” Bean added.
My dining companion and I decided in an act of sheer bloody-mindedness on the two least local things on the menu: I had the fish and chips; he had the lobster BLT sandwich. The FCB Helles Bock beer added a nice acidity to both.
Needless to say, the Food Network has already rendered any words capable of describing the lobster BLT ineffective by repetition. It does not deserve description so much as gratitude. The modernist take on fish and chips was well-prepared, with orange fennel slaw and homemade ketchup. Each element of the plate was perfectly symmetrical and color-coordinated. The chips could’ve used a healthier dose of batter, but it’s not often that edible art is local, sustainable, and capable of curing a hangover.
This is indeed the future.
Find out more about the Fort Collins Brewery and Gravity Ten-Twenty at fortcollinsbrewery.com.