By now Fort Collins’ New Belgium Brewing is a household name for most beer drinkers in New York. And if it isn’t, the resounding name of their flagship “Fat Tire Ale” certainly is. The Colorado brewery has had such success in New York, and much of the nation, in large part due to this easy-drinking amber in combination with a portfolio that connects with a lot of palates — no simple feat in a market driven by some consumers who don’t want to a drink a beer from more than a mile or two away.
New Belgium’s success is due to an intelligent marketing strategy aiming at multiple beer segments. “Fat Tire” for instance, is a beer that won’t necessarily blow any minds (unless you’re used to slugging back “Koch’s Golden Anniversary”), but importantly, it is a very drinkable, malt forward amber appealing to a large swath of new beer drinkers, as well as the more seasoned just seeking a mellow session brew. This simplicity is what many folks are actually calling for — something different, approachable, not super-charged with hops, but also not in the realm of mass-produced adjunct lagers.
Regardless of whether you consider “Fat Tire” to be a pleasant, malty session beer, or just an entry-point bridge beer to the exciting world of craft beer (it is both of those things), the rest of New Belgium’s portfolio is rounded out by excellent hop bombs, fruit beers, Belgian-styles, seasonals, collaborations, and even good gluten-free brews. Of their more recent innovations is a beer called “The Hemperor,” which they refer to as an “HPA.” This new style of India Pale Ale was brewed up to give many hopheads just what they’re looking for with big, dank aromas and hemp terpene flavors coming from new hop varietals and hemp seeds; it is one interesting beer, to say the least.
Again, New Belgium beers hit the mark for practically every consumer because they target each of the primary craft beer segments: Hopheads, malty session/entry-point drinkers, and beer geeks. Their Belgian-style Tripel, not to mention sour ales, happen to be among the best, but those I leave for another time. And, beyond the great beer, this employee-owned company aspires to be environmentally sustainable — now with an East Coast operation in Asheville, North Carolina — which not only exhibits an ability to stay ahead of the curve, and pride in their product, but most importantly, a commitment to selling excellence at its freshest.
This week’s recommendation: New Belgium Brewing’s “The Hemperor HPA,” an American IPA brewed with hemp hearts for dank, earthy terpene aromas. 7 percent ABV. Fort Collins, Colorado/Asheville, North Carolina.
— Colin Hubbell is co-owner of the Green Onion Pub and The Beer Hub in South Utica, New York.