Friday, February 22, 2008

New Belgium 2° Below Ale review

New Belgium 2 Below AleThis is the first of what I'm calling a mini brew review. It's not a full review as circumstances behind the drinking of this beer caused it to be sampled under less than favorable conditions, usually while out at a restaurant and without the benefit of a good drinking glass. I went out for a business lunch today and had the opportunity to try a 2° Below Ale from New Belgium Brewery.

Seeing how I work right in the home town of New Belgium, I at least owe it to myself to sample all of their beers as I advocate supporting your local brewery. This beer was purchased to go along with some spicy Mexican food (perhaps not the best pairing) but I thought this would be a great time to sample it.

First of all, this restaurant did not provide a glass. They simply handed you the 12oz glass bottle to drink out of. Unfortunately, this meant I wouldn't be able to examine the color and head of this beer. I knew the beer was fresh as I had seen the New Belgium truck drive off just as I got to their restaurant and they were restocking the beer cooler. From what I've read, this beer falls under the category of an ESB / Winter Warmer so I knew to expect a slightly different taste. The last ESB I tried I really enjoyed so perhaps this one would be good as well.

I made the mistake of ordering a meal with a medium hot sauce and taking a big bite of food before I sampled the beer. I've had hot sauces before and knew I didn't want the real hot version. Medium is usually ok for me, but this topping was HOT. It was so hot that I just had to take a drink of beer just to cool off my throat. I didn't have a great chance to smell the aroma at first because my need to put out a fire took precedence.

The first taste of 2° Below Ale hit me hard with an ambush of hops. Whoa hops! I hadn't had a New Belgium beer with so much bitter hoppiness right up front before. I was worried that this was going to be something like those real bitter IPAs. I had several sips of the brew before the meal burn would go away. I believe this was covering up the maltiness that this beer supposedly had. The beer went down smooth, but one couldn't help but taste the dry hops that were put in here.

I had to pace myself as I needed a sip of beer for every bite of the hot tacos I was eating. This is why I don't like to review beers under less than ideal conditions as I'm certain that it affected my taste buds. The 2° Below Ale is only brewed during a limited time of year (winter) and is advertised as a winter ale. This beer has an ABV of 6.6% along with a 30 IBU rating - typically a bit stronger alcohol than usual ales but not uncommon for a winter ale.

Apparently, the "cheery warm afterglow" that is mentioned on the bottle turned out to be the afterburn from the tacos and that unfortunately spoiled the possibility of giving this a fair review. Hence this is simply a mini-review and not a full fledged one. Still, I couldn't help but notice that the hop taste overshadowed the rest of the beer. I was able to finish the beer, but couldn't help the feeling that this was probably not going to be a beer that was going to get to the top of my list. This beer is well made as all New Belgium's are. If you love a big hoppy taste to your ESB, this beer is for you.

I'll link the reviews from Ratebeer and Beer Advocate for you, but I won't rate this beer at this time due to the circumstances. I'll want to give this beer a more thorough sampling in better conditions. At least I can tell you this beer can help put out the fire of a cheap Mexican hot dish.

Update October 2011: This beer is being discontinued (for a couple years anyway) and is being replaced by a new winter warmer Snow Day starting this early November 2011.

Read on: The sinfully delicious list of Colorado winter seasonals.

Related articles you may enjoy:
- New Belgium La Folie review.
- New Belgium revisited.
- New Belgium to partner to make fish food.

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