New Belgium Fat Tire Ale

Dear Fat Tire,
It’s not me.  It’s you.
Sunshine and rainbows,

Basic Info:
 Fat Tire Amber Ale
Origin: New Belgium Brewing Inc., Fort Collins, CO
Style: American Amber Ale
ABV: 5.2%
IBU: not available
I drank this: on tap at Jack Gage’s, Midtown Kansas City, MO (and a series of other places throughout my drinking years)

This, judging by the sheer number of reviews on Beer Advocate, is easily New Belgium’s most widespread beer.  I will go so far as to say that I think it might actually be their most popular beer (though 1554 might give it a run – I’m not honestly sure)(1554 is a significantly more worthy beer for a high popularity level – that stuff is amazing).  Anyway, given general popularity, I’m dead shocked at how bad this stuff is.  Like, vile, awful, terrible.  And I have a hard time saying that the pint upon which I’m basing this review is somehow at fault – this particular pint was an exact reiteration of every other (regrettable) time I’ve tried this beer.

Looks first.  If there’s a reason for this beer’s popularity, I’m convinced it’s based on looks.  It’s a stunningly pretty amber-reddish-slightly orange color, very clear, with a lovely white head of foam on top.  Visually, this is pretty much what beer snobs picture when they think of beer (and they’re not thinking specifically of a stout).  It’s beautiful.

Looks can be deceiving.

Taste second.  The taste isn’t so bad when its isolated and completely on its own (i.e., when I plugged my nose and took a sip that way, which I did out of desperation to see if I could get a sense of the taste alone).  It’s a malty amber with some fruity, almost grape-y hop notes and a hint of milk chocolate in the background.  So: malty chocolate grapes.  In the immortal words of Rachel Ray:  YUM-O.

Scent third.  And final.  Um, the scent is bad.  Really, really bad.  It smells, in the immortal words of my friend Charles, who was sitting across the high top table with me while I took my reviewing notes, “like vomit.”  I would amend this only to say that it smells specifically of “red wine vomit.”  As in there’s a certain amount of synesthesia which takes place in my head in encountering this scent: when I smell it not only do I think “vomit,” but I also think “purple.”  Add in the distinctly grape overtones in the taste, and I arrive at red wine vomit.  Enough (well, probably too much) said.  Just plain egregious.

So where does that leave us?  I know this stuff is popular because it’s a common brew on tap even in bars that have few craft brews, meaning they must move enough of it to make it worth carrying in bars where few beer snobs spend their money, meaning it must have some level of popular appeal.  However, I will never, never again have another one – this has to be my fifth attempt to like this beer and I’ve failed each and every time.  The scent obliterates any ability I might have to enjoy this beer.  New Belgium really does make some fantastic beers, but this is NOT one of them.


About Kim

Kim spends a lot of time writing, thinking about writing, reading, writing more and dealing with writer's block. When she's not writing, she might be found having a beer. She often combines the writing experience with the beer experience. The combination tends to lead to more creativity but significantly impaired spelling.
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5 Responses to New Belgium Fat Tire Ale

  1. Sarah says:

    This just goes to show how little our beer tastes overlap. I love this beer. It is malty and yummy, and I celebrated when a few years ago Chicago bars were finally able to sell this legally. I celebrated again when I discovered that New Belgium now sells it in cans, so we can have it at Ultimate tournaments (bottles are not allowed because many tournaments are on polo fields, and one abandoned bottle cap can cripple a horse).

    But I don’t know why I expected differently. You like beer that tastes like grass and flowers and bitter stuff. Blaech. 🙂

    Oh well. To each their own. We can agree to disagree on this one, and I encourage other readers to try it before deciding. And if you don’t more Fat Tire for me!

  2. HMS Hawkii says:

    The first time I had it was with barbeque and I swore I was drinking a beer aptly named “Flat Tire” and was unimpressed. I discovered my mistake about the name on the way out. Oops. I went several years before trying it again, but the second time I actually liked it. It’s not my favorite, but I like it – especially when it’s my only choice of a decentish beer. Now I can’t wait to try it again and see what I think it smells like. With my nose, I can smell a TsingTao from across the table and cringe. Flat, er Fat Tire? It’s fine with food. Definitely beats MichNasty!

  3. Kim says:

    Like I said, this beer is *really* popular. I don’t understand it, but I don’t have to. I can drink something else and leave more for the rest of you.

    Sarah, I’m convinced that we’ve got completely different concepts of what things smell and taste like. I think I taste/smell things as being sweeter than they are, since I tend to like my food and perfume much higher on the bitter scale than everyone else I know. And this would explain why I like the bitter stuff and you like the sweeter stuff. But this is just a pet theory of mine.

  4. Sarah says:

    Interesting theory. Considering I like my fruit to taste like candy, I think you might be onto something. I think we should test this theory the next time I come home. We will each smell and/or taste a variety of things, then both independantly rate each thing on a “sweetness scale.” You in?

  5. Kim says:

    I’m totally in – testing will be fun! I know my skin makes perfume go sickeningly sweet. E.g., anything with a sugar/vanilla note is going to smell like burning fields of sugarcane on my skin, whereas something so bitter that most people won’t go near it – like bitter orange – smells bright and sparkly and clean and not at all bitter on me. I’m guessing my tastebuds must do something similar. It would be awesome to compare notes and see if this really does seem to be the case.

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