Old Colorado Brewing Company takes on new life in Wellington

Today there are 17 microbreweries in Fort Collins. When Joe Neckel Sr. opened the Old Colorado Brewing Company on the ground floor of the Northern Hotel on College Avenue in Fort Collins in 1989, his was the first.

Today there are no microbreweries in Wellington. But not for long. In less than two months, a reincarnation of Old Colorado Brewing Company will open in the five-story grain elevator on First Street on the west side of town. Owner: Brandon Neckel, Joe’s grandson.

“It’s been a dream all his life,” Brandon’s wife, Tara, said. By the time he was 7, Brandon was crawling into the tanks at grandpa’s brewery, small enough to get inside and give them a good cleaning. Brandon knows his beer from the ground up.

Tara, who has an undergraduate degree in computer science, bought into Brandon’s dream to someday have a brewery of his own and went off to graduate school to earn an MBA.

While her degree isn’t specifically geared to owning and operating a brewery, she studied the ins and outs of the business as much as she could in her graduate program. Her final thesis was a brewery business plan. Today she works as compliance officer for a mutual funds service provider, commuting three days a week to Denver and working from home the other two. It’s a job she will keep for the forseeable future while handling the business aspects of brewing company as well.

Brandon, who had been working as an X-ray technician, has quit his job to become all-around carpenter, builder and handyman as the brewery takes shape. Large 20-tap tanks await installation. He’ll offer five beers to begin with, but has the capacity to brew up to 20.

Patrons will be able to enjoy beer on-site and purchase “growlers” and kegs for home use. Bottled beer may come later, Brandon said. He will also market to local bars and restaurants.

Making use of his grandpa’s recipes, Brandon will add a few twists and some entirely new brews of his own. All these years he’s been keeping his hand in as a home brewer. He will modify “Old Town Brown,” a favorite of the original brewing company, and serve it with pride and a bit of nostalgia. All beers will be brewed on site and Old Colorado will have a gluten-free beer on tap as well.

Tara and Brandon are committed to providing a family-friendly place where Wellington residents can come to relax and hang out with their friends. There will be a fridge with sodas available. Several food trucks will travel to the site and a spacious taproom maintaining the atmosphere of the old grain elevator will have seating for 40. Outdoors a front deck will be located above a still-functional weighing station and a spacious back deck will offer expansive views of the foothills.

Inside patrons will be able to gaze up the full five stories of the elevator, enjoy much of the original interior woodwork and learn the history of the building and the business on a wall set aside for that purpose.

Sustainability is an issue for these owners. They will install LED lighting, and recycle spent grain for horse feed.

An April 3 date has been set for a three-generation gathering. Brandon’s dad, Joe Neckel, Jr., who now lives in Michigan will join his dad, Joe Sr., now a resident of Casper, and still stirring up an occasional brew, to celebrate the establishment of Old Colorado Brewing Company #2.

“My grandpa knows very little about what we’re up to,” Brandon said. “I’m excited to see what he thinks.”

The brewery will open to the public in late April or early May and will plan a mid-summer official grand opening.

The Wellington Neckels, who have lived in town for several years, are enthusiastic about providing their hometown with a comfortable place to socialize. And they’ll likely draw a good number of patrons from towns nearby, interested to checkout what’s going on at the old grain elevator and see how Old Colorado Brewing Company beer tastes in the 21st century.

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