Hopped Up on Love

Brendan and Katie McGivney standing in the brewing room of Odell Brewing Co.
Love was in the air at CSU when Brendan McGivney (left) met Katie (right) on campus. A passion for beer brewing brought the pair even closer together.

Brendan McGivney (B.A., ’95) was in search of a community. Born and raised in Queens, New York, Brendan was seeking more open space and outdoor adventure for the next chapter in his life.

He’d heard good things about Boulder. In 1989, the second he graduated from high school, Brendan hopped in a car and drove 31 hours from New York City to Boulder for the summer. It was here that he was first introduced to locally-brewed, craft beer.

But the Boulder community was not quite what he envisioned, so he decided to enroll at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. CSU would be where he not only found the right fit for college, but his soulmate for life.

In rural Jefferson County, more than 1,800 miles southwest of Queens, Katie McGivney Marcus (B.S., ’95) was getting ready to head to CSU. Unlike Brendan, it was a place she knew extremely well.

“My father, Joseph Marcus (B.S., ’61) and mother, Caroline Marcus (B.S., ’59) née Norris, went to and fell in love at CSU. My uncle went there, my three older sisters; yea, I’m a CSU legacy,” Katie said with a laugh.

An animal lover, especially horses, Katie’s childhood was filled with raising and showing dairy goats, playing with her five siblings on the family’s land, and having a menagerie of pets that included skunks and racoons. She was, especially to Brendan, a lotta bit country (mountain country, Katie clarified), but she was also a little bit rock n’ roll.

Katie and Brendan on their wedding day.
Originally expecting to head back to New York after getting married, Brendan and Katie quickly realized Fort Collins was home.

“I’d wound up bumping into an old girlfriend from high school on campus, and was in her room seeing if she wanted to come to a party I was throwing,” Brendan explained, tossing a playful glance at Katie. “And in walked her roommate wearing a leather jacket and looking all punk and CBGB’s. I was smitten.”

They might not have admitted it then, but after 26 years of marriage, they both confess it was love at first sight. But the two would come to realize just how perfect they were for each other when they discovered they shared a love for craft and microbrewing.

“I’d been homebrewing from the moment I got to Fort Collins and thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I was underage, but it didn’t matter because I could just drink the beer I was brewing,” Brendan said enthusiastically.

Over the next four years, the pair would spend nearly all of their time together perfecting their brewing technique with the intention of heading to Upstate New York to open a brewpub with Brendan’s brother.

“As we started to build our family here, we decided to stay and just fell in love with the entire community,” Brendan said.

Both Katie and Brendan took opportunities to learn from two of Fort Collins’ most well-known breweries – Odell Brewing Co. and New Belgium Brewing.

“Once we graduated, I got hired on the spot at New Belgium. They were thrilled to have a woman on the packaging team,” Katie said. “I moved up quickly as a brewer’s assistant, and that involved carrying 50-pound bags of malt up a flight of stairs.”

Then Katie found out she was pregnant and was told she couldn’t lift anything weighing more than 35 pounds.

“That was stressful,” she said. “One day, the Lab Manager at New Belgium noticed I was down. I told him I was pregnant and didn’t know what I was going to do. He said, ‘come work in the lab.’”

That would be a formidable experience for Katie as she learned the craft of truly perfecting beer down to the microscopic level. Brendan himself would have a meteoric rise at Odell, eventually becoming part owner and Chief Operations Officer. A title he still holds.

“I definitely found my people,” Brendan said. “I knew that from the second I got on campus. CSU has always been a very safe and welcoming place, especially for someone like me who’s not from here. You can tell everyone – students, professors, professionals – everyone here just seems to find joy in what they’re doing.”

Brendan and Katie McGivney share a kiss over a beer.
The couple that brews together, stays together. After 26 years of marriage and beer brewing, the McGivney’s are going strong and fostering the next generation of Rams.

The McGivney’s certainly sum that up. Not only do they love what they do, but they love each other equally as much, and they love that they get to share that passion together. That’s what they hope to pass along on April 13 at the Alumni Night Out at Odell Brewing.

“Odell’s is incredibly inclusive. It’s not just beer, there’s hard kombucha, gluten free beer, wine – there’s something here for everyone,” Katie said.

With so many CSU alumni working at Odell’s, Brendan added, there is a lot of Ram Pride in the beer Odell brews. Those community connections run deep, and the Alumni Night Out is a way to keep that connection going.

“We love each other, we love beer, and we love CSU. Those are all good things to love,” Katie said. “And fortunately, our youngest son is now a freshman at CSU and we are so proud he chose to be a Ram instead of a Buff.”