THE CRAFT BEER SCENE in Northern Colorado is pretty crowded. But Horse & Dragon Brewing stands out from the crowd because of their character.

Carol and Tim Cochran started this business in 2014, based on a long passion for craft beer and a desire to make their home in Fort Collins after living in other states and countries.

And the beer’s pretty good – of course I’ve had to do plenty of research for this story.  But there’s a lot of great brewers in the area.

It’s the culture of this company which makes it special.

I had a couple of people remark to me about Horse & Dragon’s “pay it forward” practice – instead of tipping, they accept donations to charities or to pay for a future customer who might need help with their bill.

It turns out that this isn’t actually a policy or anything; it wasn’t designed in.  Instead, the founders originally decided that they wanted to pay their servers enough that they didn’t need tips.

But many customers wanted to tip anyway, so they had a choice.  They put it to their employees, and the group decided to put these unplanned funds to doing good in the community.

When I visited, they had a donation jar for Habitat for Humanity, a wonderful and worthy cause that I support myself.  At other times they’ve helped other community causes, and are heavily involved at the personal level as well.

Carol described it as a philosophy that community is one of the most important things they’ve experienced around the world, so they naturally wanted to integrate into this community as well.

They haven’t waited to get started; they’ve been doing this since before they even opened.  As Carol told me, “you can’t wait to pay yourself to start doing good.”

That says a lot about their priorities.

What’s next?  They’d like to improve the support for their employees, expanding benefits and giving more options.  As with any mission driven organization, they’re cautious about spending their money where it will do the most good, and not over-extending.

Because if you want to make a difference in the community, you have to be self sufficient.  Over the course of many years.

horse dragon outside