We'll set the scene.
1989. Belgium. Boy on bike. (Ok, make that a young man of 32).
As our aspiring young homebrewer rides his mountain bike with "fat tires" through European villages famous for beer, New Belgium Brewing Company was but a glimmer in his eye. Or basement. For Jeff Lebesch would return to Fort Collins with a handful of ingredients and an imagination full of recipes.
And then there was beer.
Jeff's first two basement-brewed creations? A brown dubbel with earthy undertones named Abbey and a remarkably well-balanced amber he named Fat Tire. To say the rest was history would be to overlook his wife's involvement. Kim Jordan was New Belgium's first bottler, sales rep, distributor, marketer and financial planner.
And now, she's our CEO.
Electrical engineer meets social worker; ideals flourish
The other side of the New Belgium story isn't as romantic as bicycling through Europe, but it gives testament to our dedication and hard work. And it goes like this: Jeff, an electrical engineer by day and tinkerer by nature, builds a homebrewing kit in his basement out of repurposed dairy equipment. His Belgian inspired brews garnered enough praise from friends and neighbors that Jeff and Kim take their basement brewery commercial in 1991.
Kim, social worker by day and mother to two always, began the marketing process by knocking on their neighbor's door. Anne Fitch was that neighbor and her watercolors are the artwork we continue to use on our labels today. With labeled bottles and local encouragement, the first Belgian-style beers brewed in the United States were officially for sale.
What else continues today?
The Core Values and Beliefs that Kim and Jeff built New Belgium Brewing Company on. Before they ever sold a bottle of beer, they hiked into Rocky Mountain National Park with a jug of home brew in one hand and pen and pad in the other. Together, they wrote down some what they wanted to instill into this business dream of theirs.
New Belgium Brewing Purpose Statement:
To operate a profitable brewery which makes our love and talent manifest.
Company Core Values and Beliefs
- Remembering that we are incredibly lucky to create something fine that enhances people's lives while surpassing our consumers' expectations.
- Producing world-class beers.
- Promoting beer culture and the responsible enjoyment of beer.
- Kindling social, environmental and cultural change as a business role model.
- Environmental stewardship: Honoring nature at every turn of the business.
- Cultivating potential through learning, high involvement culture, and the pursuit of opportunities.
- Balancing the myriad needs of the company, our coworkers and their families.
- Trusting each other and committing to authentic relationships and communications.
- Continuous, innovative quality and efficiency improvements.
- Having Fun.
Which brings us to ownership
As this tasty amber named Fat Tire grew in popularity, Jeff and Kim knew they’d need help. Enter Brian Callahan, an aspiring brewer and New Belgium’s first employee-owner. By giving Brian a vested interest in the company, Jeff and Kim did, “what seemed like the right thing to do.”
And all the employee owners today thank them for doing what came naturally.
Ownership is now awarded at one year of employment. And just when you think it can’t get any better, they roll in your very own one-year anniversary cruiser bike. It’s pure bliss.
It’s my company
If it were your company, what would you do? Look for ways to be less wasteful, be more efficient, recycle and reuse? Yep. It’s infectious. Once you start thinking of ways to make your company better, you can’t stop.
In 1998, a unanimous vote by employee owners switched New Belgium to wind power. The first wind powered brewery in the United States, thank you very much.
And, like all responsible business owners, it’s important to know your bottomline, barrels, and books. Meet New Belgium’s practice of open-book management: a policy of fiscal transparency throughout the company that encourages a community of trust and mutual responsibility.
It’s something good. All agreed.
Born on a Bike Seat
Team Wonderbike, Bike More
Brewing a Balance
Follow Your Folly
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