Sunday, March 9, 2014

New Belgium 1554 Black Lager

As previously noted here in TBN (yeah, I'm calling this blog that now, life is short, got to cut it down to the nib), I've been using sampler 12-packs as an inexpensive way to get to some beers I might not otherwise try. My second New Belgium sampler is in the Folly series, with a revival beer from 2007, the Mighty Arrow pale ale, entered here a few days ago. There are 4 other beers, 3 of which have made it on this site (and two of them are probably perennials in these assortments), Fat Tire, Ranger IPA and Trippel, which is now decorated with 3 chickens. (I liked it better when it was three dancing maidens.)

The fourth one is confusing me. The label calls it 1554 Black Lager. I always remembered 1554 being categorized as an ale. Did things change, or is my memory so poor. So, I'm writing new notes, and away we go…

New Belgium 1554 Black Lager, 5.6% ABV.

Dark brown, very nearly black coloring, with slight shades of crimson peeping through the edges. Small, cocoa-tinged head. Looks good.

Aroma: roasty dark malts, very dry, some espresso notes. Hardly a smidgen of sweetness. Hops hand in there in good stead.

Time to drink up…Smooth, clean, malty, and flavorful. Very easy-drinking, medium-bodied, quick finish, but full-flavored. Traces of cocoa, and judicious amounts of coffee in this malt character. This recipe keeps all manner of sweetness at bay, without pounding away with the hops. Excellent balance. Tasty, tasty stuff. (But I still wonder what it's supposed to be. Schwarzbier? Is there a historical precedence for a Belgian black ale that can also, many years later, be a lager, also?)

It's good beer and you can drink it. Cheers to that.

Let's read the label: "A Belgian book from 1554 would inspire this Black Lager{Wait…it "would" or it "Did"?} recipe. Brewed back to life, 1554 immediately made fans with it's surprisingly light taste and dry, chocolatey finish."

I'm still perplexed. Did they switch from brewing it as an ale to a lager, and leave that fact out? Good question. has three listing for New Belgium 1554, one called Enlgihtened Black Ale, listed as a Belgian Dark Ale, and entered on the site in 2002. This is the one I reviewed in February of 2003, which I share at the end of this post. There's also another name, Brussels style Black Ale. This new name, the Black Lager, now finds it listed as a "Euro Dark Lager."

While we're scratching our heads, I'm going to go back in time and uncover my first notes taken on the 1554 when it was a Black Ale,
from Feb., 2003:

"Black ale? A new appellation for me, but after tasting, it's more accurately a brown ale painted up in blackface, ...not that there's anything wrong with that.

Dark brown in color, more reddish when seen through light. A full, frothy, creamy off-white head towers on top. Powerful aromatics waft out, fruity and floral, soft, sweet notes of toffee, cream, and nuts. Bold brace of hops jump on board the palate and carry through the finish. Excellent texture, chewy and substantial. Hops start to bow out, as they are muted by the full feeling of the powerful malt presence. Very satisfying, and a superior choice for a session ale. I have to wonder if they didn't blacken this brew, which otherwise tastes like an excellent example of brown ale, to avoid comparison to the inferior Newcastle."

1 comment:

Chris Detrick said...

I seem to remember from a brewery tour long ago that 1554 was labeled and Ale due to an old weird law in Texas. That law was changed a couple of years ago, so New Belgium could call it a lager.
Too bad they didn't go with 1554 Malt Liquor...

"The labeling quirks were the result of a law that required all malt beverages (read: beer) containing more than 4 percent alcohol by weight to be labeled as either “ale” or “malt liquor” to be sold in Texas. The same law also prevented any drink with an alcohol content of more than 4 percent from being advertised in Texas as a “beer.” "