Saturday, September 7, 2013

New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale


Long, long ago, the flagship brew of the New Belgium Brewing Company of Fort Collins, Colorado, the amber ale called Fat Tire, was a thing of mystery and wonderment. Those who'd tried it and loved it spoke of it in a manner almost magical, desperately demanding that local beer purveyors find this rarity  for them. I knew one man who worked in beer retail and was subject to so many calls for Fat Tire that he found his every attempt to provide these seekers with a replacement of any excellent amber that was just as good, and easily available, were to no avail. There was no replacement for their desires, they only wanted the elusive Fat Tire, and it didn't matter that there were no plans for it's legal dispersal. This retailer friend of mine got his mules to transport cases of it up from Colorado in order to satisfy the fanatic ones. A local bar did the same with a keg of the stuff, and illegally tapped it on the sly.

Why? What was the point of all this? Was it really all that great?

I finally got my hands on a bottle in February, 2003, and wrote these notes:

Fat Tire has a bit of a hype around it, especially in regions, like mine, that do not receive this Colorado amber. What could be the reason, I wonder, why do so many rhapsodize so dreamily about it? Is it the equal or better of world classics from Europe, or does it stand out against America's legendary micros? I was determined to find out...

Fine, bubbly, but brief, head, over a bright amber color.

Nice fruity touches in the aroma, and the more I "drink in" the nose, the more I seem to find...tropical fruits, mango, banana?, peach, apricot, a hint of gentle spices, and a whiff of flowers, even.

Nice grainy, gritty texture, but overall, very smooth palate. Hops seem to be lying low, and malt does it's part, without taking the spotlight. Slight sourness in the finish, later absorbed by tasty sweetness. Well-balanced, and enjoyable. I can imagine a pleasant session with these.

So why the cult status? I have a few theories. 1. Funny name. 2. There's a bike on the label. 3. It's an easily consumed, delicious ale that accompanies fond memories of seeing jam bands in Colorado, and the perfect thing to stock in the cooler at the post-show drum jam. Enjoy, all you hippies, enjoy!!!

That was then. New Belgium entered the Minnesota market only a few years after that, to much hoopla. There was even a TV news spot about the lines that went around the building of local liquor store Surdyk's, of all the cars waiting to buy cases of the stuff on the very first day it was available. Did they do this the first day that cans of Surly Furious hit the shelves? Not so.
So, now it's here, and everywhere, and no one cares, pretty much. Are all those Fat Tire maniacs still drinking it, and considering the best thing on Earth? It's hard to imagine that uproar anymore, with the way the local scene has turned to local beers, and taprooms, etcetera.

Well, now it's in cans, and I couldn't pass up a 12-pack case for only $11.99. I needed to "tick" this for the blog, and I need a good ol' drinking beer from time to time. But I didn't expect to be so disappointed in it. I found very little charm in this one from the can. Was there a reason I liked it better 10 years ago from a bottle, and am utterly blase' about this in it's new aluminum state?
More questions!
One answer is that after these cans have been emptied and crushed, you won't catch me taking it home again. Some day I'll drink it again on tap if I'm stuck somewhere with nothing better, but how often does that happen? And if there are people our there that still think this is the end-all/be-all, based on that time they got high in the woods with their smelly college pals, keep waving your freak flags high! Shine on, crazy diamond, shine on!

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