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Beer Reviews

Fat Tire Amber Ale

Other reviews for this beer:
Nigel Tanner one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer read it ›
New Belgium Brewery, Inc.
Fort Collins, CO

Style: Amber Ale
ABV: 5.6%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

Hola, Cerveza Dorks, me llamo es Nigel. Nigel bebe mucho cerveza en Arizona, y... uh... y... dammit, that's what happens when you don't practice your Spanish after high school. Anyways, what I was trying to get at is that I was able to sample a few regional brews while on holiday in the Valley of the Sun, and I'd like to share one in particular with you right now, New Belgium's Fat Tire Amber Ale. Before "the man" who runs this fine web site gets his underoos all in a bundle, let me just say that I have a Geography minor to go with my History degree from Oxford, so, yes- I am fully aware that Colorado is west the Midwest (but far east of the West Coast... hmmm...). However, some of us Beer Dorks like to switch it up on occassion, so I'm rebelling, like it or not. I took notes on a few other Western brews while in Arizona, but I will try to hold off on most of them until we have adequately reviewed every craft brew in the Midwest (which, at this rate, will be sometime in the year 2671). It was either Fat Tire or Leinenkugel's new summer release, Summer Shandy, which Nigel received a free sample of today from his local Miller distributor. Trust me loyal readers, be very glad I chose the Fat Tire. We'll broach the topic of Summer Shitty- er, uh, Shandy at a later date.

The main reason I chose Fat Tire as the first Western brew to review is that it's the signature brew from New Belgium, a brewery that is spreading like wildfire (no pun intended) throughout the West Coast and Rockies, and has recently entered some Midwestern markets. Chicagoland Beer Dorks were introduced to Fat Tire this past fall, and Beer Dorks in other parts of the Midwest such as Missouri, Iowa, southern Minnesota, western Illinois, and the Dakotas, have seen it for a few years. I'm not totally sure what the distribution situation is with New Belgium, but clearly they know how to market. Fat Tire is a decent fallback beer, but is marketed as the second coming of Alpha King every time it reaches a new market. Clearly, someone familiar with the brainwashing techniques of the Republican Party is in charge of PR at New Belgium. Fat Tire is to the American Southwest/Rockies what Spotted Cow is to Wisconsin, Summit Extra Pale Ale is to Minnesota, Goose Island Honker's Ale is to Chicagoland, and so on- its the craft beer of choice for those who don't typically drink craft beer. It has yet to reach the level of other overly-promoted Western brews like Redhook ESB, Widmer HefeWeizen, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, but its getting there. It won't be long before Beer Dorks in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and beyond are inundated with loads of Fat Tire.

Since New Belgium is the microbrew of choice for many non-Beer Dorks in the greater Phoenix area, I was able to sample quite a few of their offerings, despite being unable to locate a good beer retailer on my two week sabbatical. As the name implies, New Belgium tends to lean towards the fine brews native to the international home of good beer, Belgium. Surprisingly (at least to me), they do a pretty damn good job of making some fine Belgian-style brews. Both the Abbey Belgian and Trippel Belgian Ales were very good, and the 1554 Brussels Style Black Ale was decent. It seems that New Belgium begins to falter when they enter the non-Belgian world, as Fat Tire is average and their other widespread American offering, Sunshine Wheat, is pretty awful (even worse than Leinenkugel's lame wheat offering, Sunset Wheat... way to avoid copyright infringement). It will be interesting to follow New Belgium from a distance to see if they stick with the well-rounded, powerful, and tasty Belgian style brews that make them a good brewery, or if they go the Leinenkugel's route and sell their soul in order to mass market pussy beers that non-Beer Dorks will suck up in droves, despite the fact that us fine beer conoisseurs are smart enough to realize that they're shit. Let's hope they stick with what they do best, and Fat Tire is only an abberration.

That having been said, I must state that Fat Tire is by no means a bad beer. On the contrary, it's a solid Amber Ale that is tasty in small doses and is a welcome site at a local Phoenix dive that serves nothing else but A-B products and loads of crappy Mexican beer (Modelo, Pacifico, and Corona are as common as Bud Light in the Valley), with the occasional Miller product thrown in for good measure (mainly to appease the many retired Midwestern snowbirds). The beer pours very nice- definitely a fine looking brew in the glass. A nice, dark amber color with a decent head on the pour that dissipates fairly quickly, leaving a beautiful trace throughout. The smell is not overly impressive- very mild, with equal parts hops, malt, yeast, and fruit. The taste is very good, but not great. It's a bit on the heavier, darker side for an Amber, medium-bodied, with a rich maltiness balanced pretty well with a decent hop addition, both sweet and tart fruits, and quite a bit of yeast for this style- perhaps a bit too much in my opinion. While certainly flavorful, it doesn't have that "it" that distinguishes it as a fine brew among its peers. The afteraste is fairly strong and lingers for a bit. It goes down nice and smooth, and could be considered a session brew. I do enjoy it on occassion on my annual spring sabbattical to Phoenix, though I'm not sure that this would be a summertime brew out there... but then again, is there a good beer for 120 degree heat? All in all, I would definitely say Fat Tire is worth a try when it comes to your area, as it is a solid brew, but don't expect to be blown away by unique, break-all-the-rules beer that tests the limits of the style. Slightly above average, but to all those gurus marketing Fat Tire, I say this: slow down Ghandi, it's not THAT good.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on April 7, 2007.
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