Here ye, Here ye! New Belgium’s Fat Tire has arrived in Michigan! More importantly, it’s at Nino’s! This iconic beer, along with its friends Red Hoptober, Ranger IPA, and Tripple, are now sold in our Great Beer State. Craft beer fans understand that not only does New Belgium produce tasty, well-balanced beers, but it has also forged a path for many small breweries trying to run successful companies.
It all started over two decades ago when Founder Jeff Lebesch was touring small towns of Europe on his “fat tired” mountain bike. He cycled from town to town, trying the different styles of beer, dreaming that one day he could build his own brewery. Already a home brewer, and a huge fan of Belgian-style ales, Jeff and his then wife–now CEO Kim Jordan–took that little dream, added a ton of hard work, and created New Belgium Brewing. New Belgium Brewing is now the third-largest craft brewery in the U.S., producing 750,000 barrels of highly regarded brew each year; and it’s still growing! In 2011, New Belgium chose Asheville, NC (that’s right, the other Beer City 2012) as the site for its new brewery to help ease expansion. Michigan is the last state that will receive NBB products from its brewery in Fort Collins, CO until the 2015 opening of the Asheville facility.
New Belgium is known for its fun work environment, green technology, and forward business thinking. But how does it taste? I could yammer on about how New Belgium was the first windmill-powered brewery or about how after your one-year anniversary of working there, you receive a bike and a portion of the company. But if these beers didn’t taste good, none of this would matter.
New Belgium beers
Last week I sat down and for the first time in seven years, I drank Fat Tire. Fat Tire is an amber ale that is Belgian in style, letting the spices and malt shine while hops take a backseat. It was Jeff and Kim’s first beer and has stayed the flagship because of its easy touch of bitter hops on the finish that leaves you refreshed. The three that came next were new to me.
Born in 1992, the Tripple is a traditional Belgian Triple style, with loads of coriander and clove, but it only has a touch of the traditional banana found in ales like St. Bernardus and Westmalle. This beer would be terrific on a chilly fall night as an accompaniment to a bowl of warm squash soup.
Brand new to every market is the seasonal Red Hoptober. It was very enjoyable, with a spicy malty quality and a floral kick from the hops. It’s not a traditional Oktoberfest beer since it is a bit heavier than most, but I will definitely be back for more.
After much persuasion, the hop heads finally convinced New Belgium to do an IPA – Ranger, named after the national sales force’s nickname. I must say, if I ever get a beer named after me, I hope it is as delicious as the Ranger! This has shot to the top of my list of favorite beers. Utilizing Chinook, Cascade, and my favorite, Simcoe hops, the Ranger has a beautiful balance of fruit and citrus, with a long, lightly bitter finish.
New Belgium has made it clear that it wants to become a part of the Michigan craft beer community and not overshadow it. It’s even made a special Michigan Commemorative Label that reads, “Pedaling Straight to the Great Lake State.” Well, New Belgium has pedaled its way into my heart, and hopefully, yours!
New Belguim is available in 22-oz. bottles or “Bombers” for now, but the traditional 12-oz. six packs will be released in November.
— Jennifer Laurie