Q&A: CSU alumna builds career at New Belgium Brewing

The New Belgium brewery tour is a rite of passage for many Colorado State University students – and it’s hard to leave and not at least think about what it would be like to work at a place known for universally beloved things like bikes and beer.

Two-time CSU College of Business alumna Nora McCombs has managed to build a career at New Belgium, where she’s helped shape the brands that are known and loved by people in Fort Collins and beyond.

McCombs graduated from CSU with a bachelor’s in business administration in 2007 and earned her MBA in 2017. She’s worked at New Belgium for 11 years in a wide variety of roles within Marketing and credits her local network with helping her land one of the most enviable jobs in Fort Collins.

Nora McCombs

Nora McCombs received both her bachelor’s and MBA at CSU, and has spent the past 11 years at New Belgium.

She caught up with SOURCE to talk about her passion for environmental sustainability, building brands and what advice she would give Rams looking for their dream job.

SOURCE: Tell us about your role at New Belgium. What projects of yours would we recognize?  

McCombs: My current role with New Belgium is national retail programming and trade marketing manager. That’s a long title, so to summarize, our team manages programs that come to life within the retail space and develop tools for our sales team to leverage in support of our brands across the country. 

Before this role, I spent time on the marketing team in a variety of different positions, including a few years as the brand manager for Fat Tire. That involved an exciting project where we certified Fat Tire as the first carbon neutral beer in the U.S. We ran a full-page ad in The New York Times, produced podcast content and had some big stunt activations in the field.

How did you land the job at New Belgium?

When I graduated from undergrad, I knew I wanted to remain in Fort Collins. I really loved the community, and I worked for a few years with smaller companies in town that allowed me to grow my marketing skills, while also having my sights set on New Belgium since it’s known as being such a wonderful employer – and it’s such a fun, exciting industry.

When a job opened up and I applied, I was fortunate to have an existing network of current employees that I knew through some of the work I had done throughout the community that were able to act as references.

What’s made you stick around for 11 years?

It’s not just hype, the company really does treat its employees well. You get a bike after you’ve worked here for a year, and they take you to Belgium after five years, along with everybody else that was hired that same year. Last year was my 10th anniversary, and I was able to take a six-week sabbatical, which was amazing. Beyond those tenure perks, the company puts a lot of effort toward building a positive daily work environment.  

But, I don’t just respect how the company treats its employees: For me, I appreciate how they try to be a force for good in the craft beer industry and beyond, and I feel honored to work with people who make such a big impact.

What drew you to CSU’s College of Business?

I grew up in Nebraska, and knew I wanted to go to college somewhere with a little more access to the outdoors. I was looking at Colorado in general, but as I did research on CSU’s College of Business, it really stood out as a program that had everything I was looking for: great rankings, a strong sense of community and a personal approach that felt unique.

CSU’s College of Business focuses on creating “business for a better world.” How has that been an integral part of your professional journey?

That’s what gets me excited about coming to work, and I love to have a job and be part of a company that I’m proud of.

I don’t think I could work for a company where I don’t personally identify with the company’s mission or impact in the world. That’s important to how I steer my career — so that I’m proud of the work that we’re collectively doing.

Right now you have a job that a lot of CSU College of Business students would be jealous of. What’s your advice in finding a career that aligns with your passions?

You can take a few different paths. One, you can narrow down which companies you want to work for, take any job you can, then work your way through the company as you prove yourself. It’s easier to get transferred to a new role or promoted once you’re actually hired on.

Or you can find an industry that excites you where you want to build a career and learn the ropes with smaller companies. Then you have the knowledge and experience that larger companies within that industry will find attractive. 

Also, a great way to land a job is through your network. Like I said, that’s what helped me get a role at New Belgium. Stay in touch with your classmates to see how you can support each other and learn together as you grow your careers.

Last question: What’s your favorite beer?

My current favorite New Belgium beer is called Dominga, which is called a “mimosa sour.” It has a citrus taste to it and is not overwhelmingly sour so it’s very drinkable and refreshing.

About CSU’s College of Business

The College of Business at Colorado State University is focused on using business to create a better world.

As an AACSB-accredited business school, the College is among the top five percent of business colleges worldwide, providing programs and career support services to more than 2,500 undergraduate and 1,300 graduate students. Faculty help students across our top-ranked on-campus and online programs develop the knowledge, skills and values to navigate a rapidly evolving business world and address global challenges with sustainable business solutions. Our students are known for their creativity, work ethic and resilience—resulting in an undergraduate job offer and placement rate of over 90% within 90 days of graduation.

The College’s highly ranked programs include its Online MBA, which has been ranked the No. 1 program in Colorado by U.S. News and World Report for five years running and achieved No. 16 for employability worldwide from QS Quacquarelli Symonds. The College’s Impact MBA is also ranked by Corporate Knights as a Top 20 “Better World MBA” worldwide.