Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New Belgium Revisited

New Belgium BreweryWhat do you do when you've got 1 hour for lunch and work just 7 miles away from New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins? You rush over there of course! I've been wanting to get back to New Belgium for a while now and took the opportunity for a quick sampling during my lunch break. I just love the atmosphere over at their tasting room. The staff is always friendly and eager to talk with you about their beers. Best of all, the samples are FREE. Can't beat that.

It was still a bit early, around 11:30am, and there were only a handful of patrons there. This tasting room is well lit by the sun and gives you a real cozy feeling. A female employee that I recognized from my last visit came over and started chatting. She seemed to remember me from last time - I was shocked. Behind her was a small shelf with one of the new Fat Tire cans on display. I asked if they had any sample cans to give out but she said that was one of the few prototype cans. They would be rolling out the canned version of Fat Tire starting in June.

I sat down on a stool at the bar and looked at their beer menu. I've tried many of their beers before but wanted to get at least three that I'd never tasted before. I filled in my selections and off she went to fill my order. New Belgium gives it's visitors four free 4 oz glasses of beer to sample. Any more than that and you'd have to pay for it and get some beer to go.

I was quickly served 4 beers that were fresh from the tap and were surprisingly quite cold. Here's a quick rundown on the beers I chose today: Jessica's Ale (Lips of Faith), Abby Belgian-Style Ale, Mighty Arrow (Pale Ale) and an old familiar, La Folie (Sour Brown Ale). I've had the La Folie before and knew what I was in for and put that one aside to have last.

Jessica's Ale is a special tap room only beer that is part of New Belgium's "Lips of Faith" series. Employees compete to come up with new recipes and the best are made into beers and served to the public in their tasting room. I've had one of the Lips of Faith beers before when it was the Eric's Sour Peach Ale. That was tasty, so I was anticipating something different. Jessica's Ale is billed as a spiced Porter. It pours very dark brown with red overtones. It has a semi-sweet and spicy aroma of cinnamon and ginger. It also smelled a bit like raisins to me. The taste was much like the aroma, spicy but with a nice after hit of caramel malts. It also had what I call their signature Belgian yeast taste. It's very subtle going down. This would be perfect for sipping during a quiet evening at home. 6.8% ABV. Very enjoyable. 3.5 out of 5 rating.

New Belgium Beer MenuAbby Belgian-Style Ale - this is a Belgian Dubbel. It was a dark amber and had a nice lacy near white head. I've tasted something similar recently during a tour of a Rock Bottom restaurant nearby but this one was definitely more refined. It had the aroma of bananas and cloves. The brewers description stated that it also will smell of figs. Well I've never smelled a fig before so that was new to me. 7.0% ABV. You have to be in the mood for a dubbel. It had a nice malty flavor twisted in with a noticable belgian yeasty flavor. You have to be in the mood for this type of beer. While I enjoyed it, it wasn't my favorite. 3.2 out of 5 rating.

Mighty Arrow - this Pale Ale was a nice copper / gold color with a creamy white head. They put in a mix of Golding, Cascade and Amarillo hops with a honey malt base. I really liked the aroma of these hops up front. It's a good ale for a summery day. It has a slightly bitter finish to it, but thats just what I expected for this kind of ale. This reminds me of a mild IPA. 6.0% ABV. I'll have to get more of this. 3.4 out of 5 ranking.

La Folie - Last but not least, their famous Sour Brown ale. I've previously reviewed this beer many months ago but now am upgrading my ranking on this. I've come to appreciate what wood cask aging can do for a beer. This beer had been aged up to 3 years. It has an aroma that reminds me of vinegar but not overly so. The taste is very tart just as I remember it and I pucker a bit every time I have a first taste of it. This beer seems to be popular. Most of the patrons in the room were having it. The New Belgium employees also seem to push this beer. "Have you heard about our La Folie?" "Oh ya!" - I tell them - "That's why I came!" I like this beer in small quantities. A 4 oz glass is just the right size for this type of beer. A full glass might be a bit too much sourness for my system. It's still one of their best beers. Try this one with small sips. 6% ABV. Tart, sour, good. 3.6 out of 5 rating.

I really wanted to bring some of these brews home with me, but it was noon and I knew they would be sitting in a hot car all afternoon. So I opted to pass until another time. I'll have to get myself a small insulated cooler for my trunk and bring along a freezer pack next time. Lunch breaks don't give you time enough for the tour either. On my way out the door, they had a stack of Celebrator Beer News on hand so I took one to read later on. It's always a good time when I visit New Belgium. You can bet that I'll be back again soon.

Related articles:
- Tasting room notes from New Belgium (May 2009).
- New Belgium Dark Kriek review.
- New Belgium Brewing is giving away bicycles.
- New Belgium Frambozen review.
- New Belgium Mighty Arrow Pale Ale review.

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