Archive for the 'New Belgium' category
Frankly, I wasn’t even planning to review this li’l gem. I found it at Parker & Otis after lunch a few days ago and figured it would be a nice treat whilst I traveled in the following week. However, after tasting this tonight, I want to make sure that I remember it. So, here we find ourselves writing it up…
This ale, Eric’s Ale, is part of the Lips of Faith series from New Belgium, which generally offers a brew with a more experimental bent. In this case, it’s a wood-aged sour ale with a peach infusion. Apparently Eric calls it “A sour ale for those who don’t like sour ales, and a fruit ale for those who don’t like fruit ales”. Well, I’m not entirely sure I agree with that statement, as this seems to lean more on the sour side. However, I tend to like both sour ales and fruit ales…. and I absolutely love this particular ale.
Eric’s ale pours a crystal clear golden with just a light hint of ruby coloration. The head is stark white and rears up fiercely on the pour but, frankly, doesn’t stick around very long. The aroma of this is straight-up sour ale, offering an aroma akin to a beer made with Brettanomyces yeast (which this may or may not utilize), or a saison ale on steroids. In the mouth, sourness takes the front seat. This has characteristics of both a saison ale and a flemish-style sour ale. It burns the tip of the tongue, and the sourness makes you pucker up through the mouth. However, there is a mellowness to the backbone that is unusual and makes it a bit more palatable. The peach flavor they mention doesn’t really jump to the forefront here. Honestly, I don’t think I would believe peach was involved if the label didn’t tell me. Nevertheless, if you really dig deep, you can sense some light sweetness and a softening factor that the peach seems to contribute. There is some grain here, as well. Again, it takes a back seat to the sour notes, but the aging, coupled with some grassy grain flavors, gives this an earthy note that is also unusual to they style.
Honestly, this is likely my favorite beer of the summer season so far. It has a tricky combination of flavors that makes it both refreshing and complex, all while starkly differentiating itself from other beers on the shelf. Sadly, this won’t likely make it to regular release from New Belgium. Also sadly, it’s pretty expensive. Nevertheless, I’m liable to pick up a couple of bottles to keep around for special occasions. I wouldn’t let it sit around too long, though – this style of brew doesn’t exactly benefit from heavy aging. Sounds like a good excuse to drink up!
Dave - September 28, 2009
This news is a bit old, but I recently happened across it. It turns out Westmalle Abbey and New Belgium Brewing Company own and control the ringed bottle trademark. I did not realize a/numerous ring(s) around a bottle actually signified a brewery, and neither did Brooklyn Brewery. The article does not go into a lot of detail but I found it interesting none-the-less. I wonder if the trademark only applies to rings around the neck of the bottle or the whole bottle (for example a ring around where the label is, or two rings ‘enclosing’ the label)?
I’ve always been a big fan of New Belgium and their predictably Belgium-inspired beers. Even before they finally found distribution in NC, I had tasted and reviewed the vast majority of their catalogue, actively seeking them out whenever in the Pacific Northwest. The Skinny Dip, however, is not a beer that I ever happened across in my travels. I’m unsure how long it’s been around, but I was very happy to see it appear on NC shelves.
The pour of the Skinny Dip is a deep golden that is super clear, with a thin white head. The aroma is mostly malt – more light and grainy than biscuity sweet. In the mouth, this is a crisp and refreshing brew that would make a killer session beer. The malt is crisp and grainy, and there’s just enough of a hop bite around the middle of the tongue to give the beer some kick. In addition to the crisp bite of the grain and hop, there is a dash of kaffir lime tossed in, lending some sweetness and a light citrus tang to the flavor. All this, combined with the forgiving 4.2% abv, makes this an exceedingly tasty and drinkable summer beer.
In some ways, I suppose this is an answer to the Bud Limes and Coronas w/ lime of the world. Generally, I’d find such responses a little tacky or tasteless, but this actually comes out rather tasty and refined, and the lime flavor isn’t overpowering at all (a la Bud Lime), and just serves to set the beer apart. Overall, a good beer, and one I’d like to drink a lot of this summer…
Now, I know I was whining just a few short days ago about how the Frambozen was my last new beer left from New Belgium, and how henceforward I’d just have to sit around waiting for special edition brews to fall in my lap. I know – I was a whiny little bi*%&. Just days after my whining, I had the opportunity to taste 4 brand new beers at the New Belgium brewery, and then to take home a bomber of the formidable La Folie. I’m not sure what I should learn from this – perhaps that, by whining, I’m giving fate an opportunity to do great things for me? If that’s the case, then expect SevenPack to be a serious venue for my complaints in the coming months…
The La Folie pours a dark and hazy brown color. Almost light-chocolate in tint, with tons of natural carbonation that spews forth with a light off-white head, making all sorts of bubbly fizzy noises before soon subsiding to a non-existant cap on the beer, leaving just the streams of tiny bubbles rising from the bottom of the glass. In the nose, this beer is pungent with sourness. There are bits of dark malt hiding beneath the sourness, which seems to be contributed by some crazy yeast (Brett, maybe?) and even a bit of sour/sweet citrus zest. In the mouth, this is far-and-away the biggest New Belgium beer I’ve yet tasted. The beer immediately slaps you in the face with a wild sour blast coupled with a snapping carbonation burn. Though this looks safe enough with it’s unassuming brown color, the first taste will immediately put you in check, letting you know you’re dealing with serious sour ale. As the beer traverses the tongue, the sourness goes through a few ebbs and tides. It rises with a citrus zest sweetness one moment, then puckers you up with a wild blast of sourness that can only come from the yeast. Honestly, any dark malt in this beer is so beat-up by the sourness that we don’t get much of the flavor. However, the texture of the beer is just rich enough to let us know it’s there. That being said, this beer washes pretty clean through the mouth, leaving a good coating on the tongue that is reminiscent of a sour lemon candy and lots of citrus at the back of the throat. While this is a brown ale, the sour and citrus characteristics would actually make this pretty refreshing on a summer night, and the surprisingly low 6% abv makes it pretty easy on a brother.
Overall, this is fabulous. I knew New Belgium made some great beers, but I didn’t know they brewed anything with such big cajones. This surely isn’t a daily drinker – it’s simply too big. But, if you can get your hands on a bottle, it’ll be worthwhile to see just what a great brewery, some skilled brewers, and three years in an oak cask can do for a beer. Very interesting, and a must-try.
Next up on the Colorado beer sojourn is an old fave that I’ve written about often here on SevenPack – New Belgium. Honestly, this was the stop around which the rest of this trip revolved. I respect a lot of things about this brewery, from their tasteful marketing, to their environmental activism, to the quality of their brews.
New Belgium is located in Fort Collins, Colorado, which kinda feels like a town without much else going on. You drive along a fairly nondescript couple of roads, by some fairly bland businesses, before pulling into the New Belgium parking lot. However, immediately upon pulling into New Belgium you realize that, A) It’s pretty big for a craft brewery and B) The attention to detail is great. It IS a large building with a few big grain silos hanging around the exterior. In addition, it’s a beautiful building, with lots of wood grain and a generally earthy feel. The attention to detail is appreciated, from the cleanliness of the facade to the trademark Fat Tire bikes parked around the exterior (apparently every employee receives one at their one year anniversary, and most of them seem to actually use them!).
Once inside, there is an excellently designed tasting room (see picture) with lots and lots of taps to feed the impressive crowds that show up. I was apparently there on a rather uncrowded day, but the bar and tables were still considerably full. Nevertheless, the flow of the layout is great and it felt quite homey and comfortable. I happened to arrive just in time for a tour which was, amazingly, almost empty. Apparently the throngs in the tasting room were content to drink, so the tour just consisted of 3 total people. The tour here is short and sweet and, frankly, not that impressive. The knowledgeable employee walks you through some of the sterile-feeling brewhouse where you can see a few of their boil kettles and fermenters – this only lasts for about 10 minutes of discussion before you end up in the private tasting room, which seems to be the focus of the tour.
Once at the private tasting room, you are greeted with rather large tasters of lots of great brews, and you can have about as much as you want of each (especially when in a small tour like my own). At this tasting, I was able to try a few limited edition brews whilst chatting with the tour guide and other tour-goers. Here’s what we tried:
Eric’s Ale: This one was delicious, and probably the big winner for the brewery tour. This ale is a sour peach ale that they currently have no plans to bottle, although it is apparently an occasional occurrence at the brewery. This is certainly no sweet brew, but is more more akin to a peche lambic, although I’ve been assured that it undergoes no lambic brewing process. Nevertheless, it is sharp, flavorful, and refreshing. We all agreed they should put this on shelves ASAP.
Mighty Arrow Ale: Honestly, this one was a little “eh”. Just a pale ale, not much more. Not sure if this one will be bottle or not – it would probably do well, being a fairly standard issue brew. However, it didn’t strike me as much – a little malty, a little hoppy, and fairly plain.
Lips of Faith: Another blockbuster. This is a beer that New Belgium should have in their lineup. It’s a strong dunkelweizen brew, weighing in at around 8-9% abv. Rich and sweet with dark malt, while maintaining that light mouthfeel provided by the wheat, with some yeasty flavors and just a light banana hint – this is a great take on the variety, strongly leaning to the Bavarian style.
Abbey Grand Cru: Holy mackerel – I know I just said the Eric’s Ale was the best, but this one might have to tie for that. A standard of the Grand Cru style, this was a super dark golden in color with hints of candi sugar, some licorice, and the strength driven by a high alcohol content. Fabulous beer. They may put this in bombers, but it currently isn’t bottled.
And, that was about it. After the tasting and lots of chatting (where I uncovered the impending New Belgium distribution to NC), we walked around a bit more of the facilities, noting the indoor metal slide and, more importantly, the cache of oak barrels where the La Folie is aged for three(3!) years (see picture) – expect a review of that soon!
Overall, this is a great facility that puts out great beer. You can tell they’ve been doing this dog and pony show for a while and for lots of people, because the general feel is well-honed and pretty sterile. Nevertheless, it’s a must-stop in the area just to check out the facilities and taste some of these great beers…
It ain’t beer, but it’s a pretty good balm for a buck…
(PS – Please pardon the blurry iPhone pic)
This just in folks. I have it from an inside source that New Belgium brewery, makers of the famous Fat Tire Ale (amongst many other killer beers) will begin distribution to North Carolina at some point in 2009. “I think they already hired the NC sales people,” the source said. “You guys should start out with the 1554 Black Ale, Mothership Wit, and Fat Tire.”
Folks, this is a sad day for me. Sure, I’m sitting here with a tasty New Belgium brew in my hand, and in lovely Boulder, CO to boot. But, the sad truth is that this is the last of New Belgium’s brews left for me to taste. Now now now, don’t get me wrong. I know these guys will continue to put out experimental and seasonal brews, and that pleases me. However, it’s not every day I get to the pacific Northwest, so I can’t very well be here to snag every one of those that comes along. Thus far in my life, due to my infrequency of travel to the area, I’ve always been able to depend on having a new and novel New Belgium brew that I’ve never tried. However, whilst scanning the shelves of the local beer store tonight, I realized that I’ve now run the gamut, the honeymoon is over, and there will be no reliable new New Belgium beers for me to count on. I’ve had all of the regular production brews, and I’ve tasted every existing seasonal that I know of. I’m sure I’ll continue to enjoy the old stock – all those beers that have brought New Belgium to the forefront of my beer esteem. However, it’s sad to know that, with some rare exceptions, it may just be re-runs from here on out. It’s kinda like being married, and hoping that occasionally the special lady will wear something new and sexy for you – maybe something silk, something red… maybe something really cool that you don’t even know about. You fellas know what I’m talking about. Anyway, this is it. The last first date. And her name is Frambozen.
This li’l philly pours a very interesting and lovely hue – it is dark brown with dark hints of ruby red all around the sides of the glass wherever light hits it. It reminds me of a dark cherry soda I used to get called Kentucky Nip, but I haven’t seen that for years. In addition, this is full of dense carbonation that streams to the top of the glass, culminating in a lightly carameled head that is thin but consistent, sticking to the sides of the glass. In the nose, raspberries truly come to the forefront. The berries smell sweet and fresh, but not cloyingly sweet. Rather, it’s a true representation of the fruit, as opposed to an artificial flavoring aroma. In addition, there are bits of light chocolate on the nose, lending a rich note to the scent. When this first hits the tongue, the carbonation jumps out at you, biting the tongue and opening the tastebuds to receive what’s coming next. Soon thereafter, the berries’ sweetness comes into play, rich and tart. Around the middle of the tongue, chocolate flavors from the dark malt co-mingle with the fruit, making this similar to a rich raspberry chocolate candy. As the beer progresses on to the back of the tongue, the tart aspects of the fruit again resurface, lending a bit of sourness that traces down the throat and into the aftertaste. Once the beer is gone, it leaves a fairly thick coating in the mouth, covering the tongue with malty chocolate flavors, but leaving the raspberry tartness at the back of the throat, which is truly an interesting aftertaste. Overall, I’d give this two thumbs up. It’s a raspberry brown ale, which is unusual, and it is extremely well presented. The flavor is much more complex and rich than the typical fruit beer, and finally seems to give you a good reason to drink a fruit beer during these cold winter months instead of saving ‘em all up until summer. Definitely give this one a try…
Alright, you guys. As promised, here’s the second as-of-yet-unreviewed beer from the New Belgium variety pack that I picked up here in Boulder for the LOW LOW PRICE(!!!) of $11.99. I’ll warn you, I’m probably going to like this. A) It’s New Belgium, B) It’s a Belgian witbier style – two things that I’m wild about.
This one pours a hazy pale golden color with considerable debris, making this cloudy delicious. The aroma is chock full of the trademark belgian wheaty yeast strain that you’ll recognize from beers such as Hoegaarden and even Blue Moon. There is some citrus here, in addition, but the yeast is the standout, and it’s very nice. In the mouth, this is a full and flavorful wheat beer. Honestly, the mouthfeel of this is much bigger than most wheats. It forgoes the light and fleeting texture of many of this genre in order to pick up a pillowy and slightly sticky feel that coats the mouth well. Again, the yeast is a big presence here – it’s a flavor that I have trouble explaining, but any fan of Belgian witbiers will recognize immediately. It’s slightly sweet and blends well with the wheat malts that add an additional bready sweetness. In addition, there are definite hints of lemon zest and coriander, rounding this out and giving it a bit of extra pizzazz. In all, the flavors brought forth in the Mothership Wit aren’t novel or unexpected. However, the strength of the yeast complement and the texture of the beer in the mouth give it a fuller and more substantial presence than many in the genre. Personally, I think it’s a great beer, but it’s all relative. This one would not be my first choice if I were cooling off after a hot day, but it’s impeccable sitting on the couch with the frost outside on a Colorado night. So, it’s a great beer, but use it appropriately…
I’ll be the first to say that New Belgium makes some serious brews. Part of this is the fact that they make some very good beers. Another part of this is that they don’t distribute East of the Mississippi River, so I rarely get to enjoy their wares. Ain’t the grass always greener on the other side of the fence? So, regardless, I’m enjoying myself in Boulder, Colorado this week (which is, incidentally, a killer town). I happen to wander into a beer store and they’re selling mixed packs of New Belgium brews for $11.99. Are you kidding me? I’ve paid more for Bud Light (though I wasn’t proud of that). I gotta move to Colorado…
So, tonight, I’ve got an interesting one for you. I’ll have one more from this pack before the week’s up, but this one is by far the rare gem of the 12-pack, if only for it’s peculiarity. The Giddy Up is an ale brewed with lemon peel and then infused with espresso. When I first saw this addition to the 12-pack, I was prepared for a letdown. It just sounds weird, and there are enough excellent coffee beers out there. Between Founder’s and Terrapin, you just don’t play around in the coffee beer category. However, I have to admit that New Belgium has made a serious contribution to the category, as this beer is phenomenal. The beer pours a very dark brown, although not quite as dark as a stout. The aroma here is full of coffee, and it’s a different and slightly more refined coffee aroma, perhaps due to the fact that the coffee is infused completely post-fermentation (not sure how competitors handle this). In the mouth, the initial sensation is of strong, nutty espresso. There is a level of sweetness and a presence of earthy malt, but no substantial bitterness. Frankly, this flavor is superb, and it would be enough in it’s own. However, as the beer reaches the middle of the mouth, we catch a citrus-sourness from the lemon peel that pulls this beer from the good category to the great category. The addition of the lemon peel provides balance, keeps this out of the dessert beer category, and places it almost into a bizarre session beer drinkable category of brew. There are sweet, nutty, malty, earthy, and citrusy categories to this beer, and it is nothing if not totally unique and totally worthwhile. At the same time, it’s extremely drinkable, having a giant flavor but a mouthfeel that isn’t completely syrupy. I must admit, I’m taken totally by surprise at how enjoyable this is. Probably one of the most uniquely flavorful and (for a decadent brew) drinkable beers I’ve had in months…
This news is a bit old but I wanted to mention it. New Belgium Brewing and Elysian Brewing Company are collaborating on their brewhouses. The two companies have agreed to allow their brew teams to utilize each other’s brewhouses, while keeping their business enterprises separate. This will allow New Belgium to utilize Elysian’s brewhouse for small batch brewing of experimental beers, which will be distributed in the Pacific North West. Elysian will be able to brew larger batches in New Belgium’s Fort Collins brewhouse for greater distribution through the country.
This seems to be a twist on the typical “contract brewing” agreement and it will be interesting to see how it works out. I know Ben did not give a good review of Elysian’s “The Immortal” IPA but I believe that was caused by a dud bottle, because I was quite impressed with their beers while visiting Seattle. So, if this agreement brings some of Elysian beers closer to me, they just started distributing in New York, I will be quite happy.
[First seen on beeradvocate.com]
Hey everybody – I know it’s been a long time since we rapped at ya’, and I apologize for that. Matty and I took a trip down to Texas for the SXSW music festival and to try and wrangle up a few new beers. While the beers didn’t flow so well down in Texas (at least the good ones didn’t), we’ll hopefully get around to writing about our experiences and the 2 real beer havens we found while down there. In the meanwhile, I’m going to get the ball rolling with this quick review of a New Belgium offering that I found in San Antonio.
The Blue Paddle pours a rather pretty soft golden color with a hefty bit of dense suspended debris. There is a paper-white head that starts thick but quickly dissipates into a paper-thin layer over the beer. The aroma of the Blue Paddle is really quite nice. Frankly, this isn’t quite as crisp or hoppy as some more traditional Pilsners. Rather, there is a heavy dose of rich malt that smells lightly sweet and very delicious. In the mouth, as I’ve come to expect from New Belgium, this is mighty tasty. It starts sharp and hoppy on the tip of the tongue, and that hoppiness sticks with us for the duration of the beer. However, around the middle of the mouth that biscuity malt flavor rears its head. This malt is much sweeter and richer than the malts I normally find in Eastern European Pilsners. Furthermore, there is a bigger mouthfeel than I am accustomed to in this variety. Basically, the flavor here is a three stage process: 1) hoppy bite, 2) malty rich, 3) a combination of 1 + 2. So, it’s a good beer. It lays its foundations and then builds them together to end with a fairly complicated flavor that sticks in the aftertaste. I will say that, if you prefer a crisp refreshing Pilsner, this isn’t your beer. However, if you’re in the market for something that carries Pilsner characteristics, but then also delivers with something a bit richer and more complex, then you’re going to like the Blue Paddle.
This beer surfaces a number of emotions for me. My first emotion is that of a fellow who isn’t typically partial to Black ales. I haven’t had a whole bunch of these, and the black ales I have had have typically been of the German variety. Nevertheless, I feel like this Belgian version might be in a similar vein. My second emotion stems from the fact that I bought this during an exceedingly enjoyable vacation in Montana during a brief stop in a small gas station on the outskirts of Glacier National Park. So, needless to say, the purchase of this beer was bookended by a number of enjoyable experiences. While I didn’t get a chance to drink this during said vacation, a lovely lady was kind enough to take care of the beer until I had the opportunity to get it back. And so now, after many miles of travel, this New Belgium brew finds its way back to NC for my review.
The 1554 pours a rather dark black color, as expected. It seems fairly clear, although the darkness makes it hard to be certain. There are some hints of dark brown around the edges where light is allowed to enter. The aroma of this beer is heavy with toffee and chocolate and that’s about it. It’s a rather lovely aroma, and quite pungent for a black ale. In the mouth, this beer is actually a bit simpler than I expected. The mouthfeel is mid-sized, and the flavor is a melange of dark chocolatey malts and toffee. These sweet flavors are just barely cut by a light hop bitterness that is hardly noticeable. However, these hops do also bring a light flowery sweetness that also sits in the background. So, needless to say, the sweet richness lies in the forefront of this brew, and it manages to maintain a nearly identical taste from the front of the mouth to the aftertaste – a feat that, in itself, is fairly remarkable.
Honestly, I find that the few black ales I’ve had have generally been a taste disappointment. Often, the aroma delivers largely, but the taste comes in comparatively flat. However, the 1554 actually delivers on both ends. There’s a great aroma followed by an equally delicious flavor. So, while this is a fairly simple beer, it’s certainly the best black ale that I’ve had, and I’m glad to see New Belgium doing good things. Frankly, I still haven’t had a bad beer from these guys – so when will y’all start distributing to NC, for goodness’ sake?
Frankly, I feel a little bit guilty reviewing this beer, because it’s Jon’s favorite and he should really probably do the honor. But, here I sit, drinking a Fat Tire, enjoying a Fat Tire, and realizing that it’s a gaping hole in our list of reviews. So, sorry Jon, but I’m going to go ahead and handle this. I’ll try to bring you one back to NC, if I can find the room in my bags.
This is a beer that I rarely have the pleasure of drinking, and it always seems that, when I can drink it, it is under exceptionally nice circumstances. My first Fat Tire was in a pool hall in Golden, Colorado. My second was in the Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone National Park. My third (and several thereafter) have been during “vacations” in Washington State. So, needless to say, I tend to attach this beer to pleasurable experiences. This can make any beer a bit tastier than it might otherwise seem. However, in this case, I really feel that we’re dealing with a quality beer to-boot.
The pour of this beer is a medium amber with a slight caramel head. The aroma is quite malty with a notable caramel presence. In the mouth, the beer is slightly more decadent and flavorful than an average amber. The initial taste is rich with toffee and caramel that slides into a malty sweet-bread richness. On through the mouth, the rich sweetness persists without quite becoming a desert beer. The finish is quite clean, leaving behind a malty, but not syrupy, aftertaste. There is very little hop presence in this beer – rather, it sticks to purely amber roots and tends to the rich and sweet as opposed to the bitter and biting. This, regardless of where I’m drinking it, is one of my favorite amber ales, both because it is delicious and because it comes from New Belgium who, as far as I’ve experienced, can’t make a bad beer. Highly recommended if you find yourself in the West.
I swear, these guys can do no wrong. I rarely have a chance to have a New Belgium beer unless I find myself in the Northwest. However, each time I do, I am again impressed. This trip, I chose the New Belgium Sunshine wheat ale. Seeing as it’s wintertime in Seattle, I figured a little sunshine might do me good.
The pour of this beer is a clear, filtered golden. The aroma is heavy with coriander and spice with just a light hint of citrus. In the mouth, the beer is crisp, sweet, and refreshing. The first taste you get is of some citrus near the front of the mouth. This quickly transitions to a sweet and mildly spicy flavor around the middle of the tongue. Here you can really taste the orange peel and coriander that is typical of the Belgian variety of a wheat ale. On through the mouth, we catch a light bitterness near the back of the mouth that last just a moment and subsides into a slight malt aftertaste. Overall, I’d consider this more complex than many American brews of this variety. It is heavy enough to be substantial, but light enough to be refreshing and a good session beer. Cheers to New Belgium for choosing the Belgian version of this beer (I guess it’s necessary, given their name), and cheers to them again for executing it wonderfully.