Thursday, June 4, 2009

Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan

Today we celebrate Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan, a husband and wife duo that turned a vision into reality working from the basement of their home.

It all started in 1989 when Jeff Lebesch, electrical engineer and homebrewer, decided to take a trip to Belgium to explore some of the finest breweries in Europe. He made his rounds via a fat tire bicycle – which inspired his trademark brew, “Fat Tire Ale” when he returned to the states – sampling all of what Belgium had to offer. Upon returning to his basement brewery – constructed of old dairy equipment – he attempted to re-created his favorite brews from Belgium.

With the help of his wife, Kim Jordan, and having passed the taste test of several friends and neighbors, Jeff took his brew to the streets. New Belgium Brewing officially went commercial in 1991 and at the time offered the only Belgium-like beers in the U.S.

Today the brewery thrives in Fort Collins, Colorado. New Belgium is an employee-owned company – each employee earns their portion of the business after one year of service – and operates with an open-book management policy – i.e. complete fiscal transparency. New Belgium also sells its product on the promotion of sustainability. It is the first wind-powered brewery in the United States. A trip to the tasting room will reveal a building full of furniture constructed of recycled bicycle parts.

While New Belgium Brewing doesn’t distribute nation-wide (yet!), it does serve nearly every state in the west and mid-west. Until recently, the farthest state east on its distribution list was Tennessee – North Carolina now takes the prize, and will soon be joined by South Carolina and Georgia.

New Belgium Brewing, and the micro-brew industry in general, is an interesting study of entrepreneurial growth in light of relaxed regulation. A little over 25 years ago, laws prohibited the manufacture and sale of homebrew/microbrew. Today the microbrew industry is fierce competition for the old staples in America’s beer diet – Miller Co., Coors, etc. In fact, we have seen in recent months, buyouts and merges among many of the traditional names in American brewing – and consequently, many attempts by these “older” manufacturers at creating brews that cater to the consumers of microbrew.

Jeff and Kim are honored as heroes of capitalism for their entrepreneur ability and innovative effort. Their – and other microbreweries – have continued to promote new and innovative techniques in the world of brewing and consequently fostered a fast-growing industry. Cheers to Jeff and Kim.


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