Style: Amber Ale
ABV: 5.2 percent
Serving Type: 12-ounce bottle
Malty? Hoppy? More malts, of course.
Reviewed: July 2013
The Fort Collins beer that started it all: Fat Tire. The Colorado hallmark was actually first brewed a couple years before New Belgium was founded in 1991, in the basement of (future) co-founder Jeff Lebesch. It was aptly was named after the vacation that Lebesch spent biking on “fat tires” through little villages—in search of good beer, of course.
Little did Lebesch know that in 1991, he was brewing the flagship for Colorado’s craft beer industry, and an archetype for amber ales to come. Fat Tire was so well received, in fact, that its popularity and name-recognition far preceded that of the brewery itself (so much so that New Belgium changed its logo to include the famous bicycle in 2006).
Twenty years later, it maintains a different legacy. The amber ale is yeasty, caramel malt-heavy, and medium-bodied with a slight sweetness. It’s definitely session-able, and there’s no argument that there is something to be said for ease and mass appeal (its catch phrase is "pairs well with people"). It’s well balanced, with a nudge of hops at the end—but then, not much else. After a sip of Fat Tire, our well-trained, hops-craving taste buds are left wanting more.
With all the dynamic, interesting, and even strange options that the craft beer explosion has given us, it doesn’t seem likely that the New Belgium brew would be a beer-lover's first choice. That’s not to say it doesn’t do well—it’s one of the state’s most profitable beers—but it’s no longer the poster boy for Colorado craft beer. Which is why it’s more of a tourist trap than a true craft production. Still, we love Fat Tire for paving the way for Colorado’s glorious craft beer trend, even through 20 years of brewing excellence has left us beer drinkers with bigger and better (flavor) options.
Would we buy it again? Sadly, yes. Any time we travel out of Colorado, it’s often the best beer we can find. Plus, we have to pay homage, every once in awhile, to our roots.
Follow digital assistant editor Jerilyn Forsythe on Twitter at @jlforsyt.