New Belgium beers roll into Triad
Fat Tire has excellent malt flavors, with a sweet caramel taste onthe front end and a bitter, hoppy finish. Bartenders all over town tellme that people love this beer, probably the most approachable of theNew Belgium line, and it is as fine an amber ale as you can get.
Sometimes my wife is annoyed by my job. She is occasionally impressed. She is always supportive. And last week, when I brought home a bunch of beers for us to sample, she was pretty psyched. My wife doesn’t mess with regular old American pilsner beers. She likes the good stuff — the craft beers, the dark ones, almost anything produced in small batches. Enlisting her aid in tastetesting three beers from the New Belgium Brewery was a no-brainer. If you’re a beer lover, you’ve probably noticed that New Belgium has been strafing the area with three of their craft beers made in their employee-owned, windpowered brewery in Fort Collins, Colo. The company is the antithesis of the American beer industry, founded by a man on a bike while touring breweries in Belgium, dedicated to craft, sustainability and old-fashioned bicycles. No television commercials with hot blonde twins, no corporate sponsorship, no catchy slogans. And very good beer. I explained this to my wife as I cracked an oversized bottle of Mothership Wit, an organic wheat beer in the style of Belgian whites. My wife loved the fresh taste and the full body. I loved the copy on the bottle: “[A] a gravitational balance of citrus and sour flavors held in suspension by a bright burst of carbonation.” This is an excellent warmweather beer, and also a good food beer. On the website a chef recommends pairing with spiced lump crabmeat. I’m in. Fat Tire is New Belgium’s flagship beer, the very first one created by the company’s owner after his fateful bike tour. The copy on the bottle is excellent: “[T]oasty, biscuit-like malt flavors coasting in equilibrium with hoppy freshness.” But it takes a backseat to the beer itself. Fat Tire has excellent malt flavors, with a sweet caramel taste on the front end and a bitter, hoppy finish. Bartenders all over town tell me that people love this beer, probably the most approachable of the New Belgium line, and it is as fine an amber ale as you can get. But my favorite, and my wife’s, is the 1554 another product of that European bicycle tour. According to the company, 1554 Enlightened Black Ale is the result of a forgotten 500-year-old Belgian recipe resurrected by New Belgium’s brewmaster, Peter Bouckaert. It utilizes light yeast and dark malt, and it pours from the bottle the color of black coffee. The taste is full-bodied and chocolatey — my wife likened it to ice coffee — flavorful enough to be appreciably sipped, but not so heavy that you have to stop drinking it after one glass. This is a beer that we will be ordering in bars and looking for in our supermarket. And we look forward to trying more New Belgium beers. The company brews more than 17 beers during the course of a year, though not all of them have made it to the Triad yet. I am anxious to try the Abbey Ale, the beer New Belgium owner Jeff Lebesch brewed at home before starting the company. It’s a grand cru, which means that the brewery considers it the finest beer it produces, and the list of medals it has won in competition is long, indeed. And it is a highoctane beer,9.5 percent alcohol by volume, which means it is a sipper.
I am a fan of the beers this company produces, and I am impressed by the company ethos of sustainability and fairness. I also like the fact that employees get an ownership stake in the company after one year of employment, and also a bicycle with fat tires.
Three of New Belgium Brewing’s beers — before our reporter takes them down one by one. (photo by Brian Clarey)