Friday, November 04, 2011

The beer I didn't want to like (Beer Blogging Friday)

The Session #57: Beery Confessions: Guilty Secrets/Guilty Pleasure Beer

The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community begun in March of 2007 by Stan Hieronymus of Appellation Beer and Jay Brooks of the Brookston Beer Bulletin.

On the first Friday of every month, one beer blogger hosts The Session: Beer Blogging Friday. He or she chooses a specific, beer-related topic, invites all bloggers to write on it, and posts a roundup of all the responses received.

For more information, view the archive page.

For November 2011, Steve Lamond —at the blog Beers I've Known— hosted the 57th iteration of The Session. His topic was "Beery Confessions: Guilty Secrets/Guilty Pleasure Beer".
One of the things I most enjoy about blogs and personal writing in general is the ability to have a window into another's life, in a semi-voyeuristic way. So I'd like to know your beery guilty secrets. Did you have a particularly embarassing first beer (in the same way that some people purchase an atrocious song as their first record) or perhaps there's still a beer you return to even though you know you shouldn't? Or maybe you don't subscribe to the baloney about feeling guilty about beers and drink anything anyway?

You're also welcome to write about bad drinking experiences you've had as a result of your own indulgence or times when you've been completely wrong about a beer but not yet confessed to anyone that you've changed your mind.

In the early aughts, I vacationed in Colorado, and drank Fat Tire —an amber ale and the flagship beer of New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colorado— on draft and in bottle at several rural bars far removed from urban attitudes. I wasn't impressed with the beer —it was a quotidien amber ale, after all— but I was impressed that Fat Tire seemed nearly as prevalent as was Coors, the behemoth of Colorado. In other words, Coloradans, with all their choices of 'craft' beer, were embracing Fat Tire as their own.

It took another decade, not until August of 2011, for New Belgium to begin to distribute its beers here in Virginia. In the intervening years, one would hear paens to Fat Tire's excellence, whispered in hushed tones of reverence. Or loud sarcastic put-downs from 'craft' beer snobs: "Flat [sic] Tire, it's nothing."

I may have been in the latter camp. There were too many choices for full-flavored beers, imported and local — here in the mid-Atlantic U.S.— for me to have given a drinker's whit for yet another 'amber ale.' I was turned off by all the hype about Fat Tire's advent. Furthermore, I am a representative for a wine and beer distributor in northern Virginia that does NOT sell the beers of New Belgium. Thus I had an occupational reason to dislike the beer.

But, in an attempt to maintain a beer blogger's unbiased credibility, I dutifully purchased a bottle of Fat Tire, popped it open one evening after work in early September, poured it in a glass, and sipped. And ...

Fat Tire review

"Hey, Mikey, " I liked it.

Why? Because the beer tasted fresh.

Despite having been shipped a couple of thousand miles, despite sitting in a wholesaler's warehouse and on a supermarket floor, this Fat Tire tasted as fresh as an amber ale might in a local brewpub. An initial aroma of piney hops and sweet fruit —not overpowering but assuredly evident. Then flavors of gently toasted bread sprinkled with brown sugar. Finally a dry —but again, not assertive— finish of piney hop bitterness.

I cannot emphasize enough the startling freshness of the beer in the bottle. There are many 'craft' breweries that produce much more assertive beers —including New Belgium itself, which brews several Belgianesque beers. But there are very few 'craft' breweries with the acumen —that obviously New Belgium has— to preserve that just-brewed-at-the-brewery freshness in a bottle, opened many miles and days removed from the brewery.

New Belgium can be lauded for its technological 'greenness' and for its benighted treatment of its employees. But, don't forget its beers.


  • Fat Tire Amber Ale
    New Belgium Brewing: Fort Collins, Colorado.
  • The brewery's description: "toasty, biscuit-like malt flavors coasting in equilibrium with hoppy freshness. 5.2% abv. Serve at 7 °C (45 °F)."
  • Bottle purchased at a northern Virginia supermarket: 4 September 2011.
  • Eric Delia at Virginia blog Relentless Thirst looked at the market power of New Belgium.
  • Irony alert: Note the beer glass into which I poured the Fat Tire. It's been turned around, but the top of another brand's logo peeks out over the foam. That's a beer I've liked since first tasting it in 1994.

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