The craft beer landscape these days is littered with new breweries, as well as older, more established operations. Most craft beer lovers are familiar with some of those – names like Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada and Anchor have been around for a pretty long time. However, there are some newer breweries that are getting a lot of traction. While Dogfish Head might be one of the most famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view), there are many others. One that you should certainly take note of is New Belgium Brewing. Based in Fort Collins, New Belgium is one of a legion of Colorado breweries that are making the state known as a haven for craft breweries and those who love them.
The Biggest Name You’ve Never Heard Of
Some readers are probably thinking, “Wait, I’ve known about New Belgium for YEARS!” Well, that’s true. They’re one of the largest breweries in the country. In fact, they’re the third largest craft brewer, and the seventh largest brewery overall. Still, size doesn’t account for everything, and there are lots of beer lovers who haven’t heard of them (though that number is dwindling rapidly).
New Belgium was born quite some time ago – the company was founded in 1991, as a matter of fact. The reason that so many drinkers are just now hearing about the company is that prior to 2006, they only shipped their brews to 15 states (almost all of them in the Western US). That left 35 states completely free of their influence. By 2011, the company’s products could be found in 29 states, and more will be added as time goes on (Michigan is set to be the last state added in 2012).
Iconic Art and Labels
For anyone who has ever had the pleasure of enjoying a New Belgium brew, the company’s bottle labels are a significant part of the experience. Those beautiful, evocative labels have had a considerable impact on the company over time.
Once, that iconic red and gold bicycle wasn’t the company’s logo. However, because consumers could recognize the bike featured on the flagship Fat Tire Ale but not the company’s logo itself, New Belgium made some changes. The fat-tired bicycle has now become synonymous with the brewery, and they’ve taken it to other lengths as well. All the labels for the company are created by artist Anne Fitch, and they all share a recognizable character. From Fat Tire to 1554 and their seasonal offerings like Somersault, it’s hard to confuse the brewery’s offerings with anything else on the market today.
Spend any time perusing the company’s website or interacting with them on Facebook or Twitter (where they are quite active), and you’ll see the red bicycle used over and over again. From category designations on their website to contest prizes, New Belgium has really made the bike their own. You’ll even find their Tour de Fat, which is a bicycle parade/festival that travels the Western US throughout the year. The company even presents employees with a cruiser bike at their one-year anniversary.
If you’re one of the surprisingly large number of beer lovers who’ve never sampled the brews offered by New Belgium, you’ll want to know a bit more about their stock-in-trade. You’ll find quite a variety of different beers put out, including some very tasty seasonal suds.
Fat Tire – This is the brewery’s flagship brew that helped to garner their initial success. Fat Tire is an amber ale, but you’ll find that there are additional flavors here not found in European brews.
1554 – For lovers of all things dark, it doesn’t get much better than the brewery’s 1554 Enlightened Black Ale. Based on a Belgian recipe dating back centuries, this is something that truly needs to be experienced.
Blue Paddle – Blue Paddle isn’t out in all states where New Belgium is distributed, but it can be found in the majority of them. Blue Paddle is a Czech-style pilsner but with more body than most of what you’ll find in that particular category.
Sunshine Wheat – Similar to a hefeweizen, Sunshine Wheat is still different. It’s a filtered wheat beer that offers plenty of flavor but less body and is designed to quench thirst.
Shift – Shift was inspired by the brewery’s end-of-shift beer sharing. It’s a pale lager, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in flavor.
Ranger IPA and Belago IPA – For lovers of India pale ales, New Belgium offers up two options.
Trippel – For those with a love for Belgian brewed trippels, New Belgium offers their Trippel Ale, which offers a lovely taste of coriander and a complex flavor.
Abbey – The company’s Abbey Belgian Ale has won several medals and four World Beer Cup championships. Technically, this is a dubbel and offers six different malts.
Seasonal Offerings – New Belgium puts out a range of seasonal beers, including their Red Hoptober, Dig (spring) and Somersault (summer).
Clips of Faith
If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the cities the brewery’s Clips of Faith tour will hit, make sure you don’t miss it. Clips of Faith will go coast to coast, but only 18 cities will play host to this fundraiser. It’s in interesting concept – you’ll get to sample 16 different brews from the company, each paired with a specific film. All the proceeds go to charity, so you can enjoy a brew and a film and feel good about contributing to a worthy cause.
If you’re one of those who have yet to sample the amazing creations being brewed up by New Belgium, it’s time you took a chance. Whether you want something dark (1554), something a bit lighter (Fat Tire) or prefer something pale (Ranger or Belago IPAs), there’s something here you’re going to love. Make sure you connect with New Belgium on Facebook and Twitter as well, particularly if you want a chance to win in one of their many contests – that iconic fat tire bike could be yours one of these days.