Wang, Brewing Big, Entrepreneur Mag, Nov. 2009.
“Brewing Big (With a Micro Soul).”
By Jennifer Wang
After 18 years of growth and with annual revenue about to break $100 million, Kim Jordan still
maintains New Belgium's freewheeling spirit.
At least three days a week, Kim Jordan hops on her Spot Brand custom bike and cycles the three
miles from her house in Fort Collins, Colo., to the New Belgium Brewing Co. just outside the
city's Old Town.
The path she takes meanders alongside a stream and over train tracks, not far from where
hundreds of people converge during the company's summer "bike-in movie" events, gathering on
the lawn to enjoy films paired with fine beers--like New Belgium's flagship Fat Tire Amber Ale,
the organic wheat offering Mothership Wit and La Folie, a sour ale aged in the large French oak
barrels that loom behind the bottling site.
In a town like this, Jordan's way of commuting might not seem out of place. But for the CEO of
the third-largest craft brewing company in the U.S.--which posted $93 million in revenue last
year, and is expected to break $100 million in 2009--her habits are progressive.
Just consider this: In less than two decades, she has increased production from a mere 220
barrels to a staggering 567,000 barrels. Employee ranks have swelled above 300, and the
brewery has had to move into bigger facilities twice. Today, New Belgium is housed in a
gleaming $100 million, 210,000-square-foot facility.
But it still has the soul of a startup. And a CEO who believes that is the secret to its success.
"I like collaboration," says Jordan, who's wearing her typical jeans and a plain shirt. Her office
has no sweeping view or swanky furniture--it's crowded enough with just a desk and a loveseat.
"I like riffing off of other people and that process where you build something that's bigger and
better than you can imagine."
And it's true that New Belgium's culture has more in common with an early stage company than
one approaching the 20-year mark. There's the 92 percent employee-retention rate, helped along
by enviable perks: ownership in the company and a special edition cruiser bike after one year, an
all-expenses paid trip to Belgium after five--and lots of free beer (two six-packs a week, plus a