“I’ll have a Fat Tire and that IPA from Fat Tire.”
I’ve heard that sort of request numerous times from beer drinkers who aren’t even novices to the genre. It’s the craft beer specialty mindset where one specific beer from a brewery achieves such an exalted status that the beer’s name supplants the actual brewery’s.
Quick, who brews Fat Tire Amber Ale? That’s a lot harder to swiftly think about compared to the brewer of the Lagunitas IPA.
Perhaps Lagunitas IPA cannot be included in this discussion, though it very much fits amongst its colleagues for iconic beers. I for one knew about Arrogant Bastard years ago, but had no clue who actually brewed the beer. The same for Black Butte, Pliny, and Fat Tire. These are the flagship beers of the craft beer movement that has swept across the country from beer epicenters like Portland and Denver to the tiniest towns of West Virginia and Delaware (can you think of a Delaware craft brewer? Don’t think too hard.).
These are also the beers that are starting to verge on over-expansion. Like with restaurant chefs, craft breweries can very quickly expand its output to too high a level and the product begins to be noticeably compromised. I always use the airport as an example when this really starts to be the case. Just ask Wolfgang Puck. And now, it almost seems you can find Lagunitas IPA and Fat Tire Amber Ale at as many airport bars as Stella Artois and Shocktop.
That’s a good thing in that travelers get decent to good craft beers, instead of the mass produced messes they used to be stuck with. That’s also a bad thing because what were often exceptional, very personal small batch beers are now a fraction of what they once were.
My family, many of whom live near New Belgium in Colorado, treat Fat Tire Amber Ale with the same reverence as John Elway.
After sampling all 17 beers recently on tap at New Belgium’s Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado, it’s fair to say Fat Tire is very much in the middle of the pack at its own brewery. It’s not that it’s a poor product. It’s just nothing special. That was a universal opinion. The signature beer of a craft brewery shouldn’t be one you don’t remember at the end of a tasting, even with all of the stouts and Belgians pyrotechnics over the course of the sampling journey. (more…)