Friday, August 13, 2010

Beer of the Week (Vol. LXVI)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the well-rounded folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you blaze a trail through the wide world of wine, whiskey, and beer.

Over the years a number of individual brews have helped craft brewing break through from the esoteric to the mainstream. Sam Adams Boston Lager is definitely one of these pioneers. To a lesser extent, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was also the starting point for many on their path from macro lagers to the world of hoppy, flavorful beers. Another such gateway beer is Fat Tire Amber Ale from New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado.

While I support any efforts to get American beer drinkers to widen their horizons, I've never really understood the special appeal of Fat Tire. While it's now widely available, there was a time not long ago when it was hard to get your hands on a bottle outside of the Rocky Mountain State. Not since the golden days of Coors' limited availability, had there been such a buzz about the lengths that people would go to acquire Fat Tire. I heard stories of road trips planned around securing copious amounts of Fat Tire to bring home. People in Colorado would ship Fat Tire to their friends who eagerly awaited the arrival of the magical elixir.

I suppose it shows the power of branding, design, and exclusivity. There's no doubt that part of the beer's appeal was the name itself. Fat Tire is unique, easy to remember, and likeable. The bottle and label are also attractive and contributed to the beer's popularity:

New Belgium beer labels are designed by Anne Fitch, a watercolorist.

Kim Jordan, the President of New Belgium Brewery, credits the success of New Belgium Brewery in part on Anne's artwork, "Our beers were good, our labels were interesting to people, and we pretty quickly had a fairly robust following."

And there's no disputing that the label is a killer. A gorgeous red bike leaning against a tree in a beautiful pastoral setting framed with vines. How can you not like this beer?

Well, there is the matter of taste...

Beer Style: Amber Ale

Alcohol by Volume: 5.2%

COLOR (0-2): Clear and amber gold. 2

AROMA (0-2): Malty, bready, and sweet. 1

HEAD (0-2): A little off-white. Nice volume and good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Again mostly malty and sweet with a light touch of hops. Medium-bodied with a flat yet heavy finish. Moderate drinkability. 2

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Strong follow through but somewhat off-putting. 1

OVERALL (0-6): I haven't had a Fat Tire for a while, but this tasting once again confirmed my long-held view that it's one of or even perhaps the most overrated beer out there. It's not a great beer and really isn't even that good of beer when compared to all the other craft options available. Yes, it's a heck of lot better than Coor's Light and if Fat Tire is the lure that gets people hooked on craft beer than it serves a useful purpose, but there's simply nothing to get excited about here. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 11