New Belgium Brewing Co., based in Fort Collins, Colo., made three of its finest Belgian-styled ales available in Charleston and across the state this morning — their signature amber ale Fat Tire, a dark-colored 1554, and the spicy wheat beer Mothership Wit.
As many microbreweries do when they roll out new stock in a new regional market, New Belgium sent several cases of the 22-ounce "bomber" bottles to retail shops, bars, and restaurant this morning. One truck made a major stop just at the downtown specialty shop Charleston Beer Exchange (14 Exchange Street, just south of Broad Street). Owners Rich Carley and Scott Schor stacked them high, right in the center of the main room.
"We've had a lot of pre-sale orders by phone already," Schor says this afternoon. "These big bottles are part of the first wave. New Belgium will be sending 12-ounce bottles and kegs this way in the second wave of distribution in just a few months."
New Belgium Brewing is the third-largest craft brewer in the country. It announced plans to is widening its reach in the spring adding South Carolina as one of four new states.
"South Carolina is famed for its natural beauty and for having an appreciation for the good life" said Bryan Simpson, New Belgium spokesperson. "We're rolling out three of our favorite beers there, so hopefully the good life just got a little better."
City Paper obtained a bottle of each new variety this afternoon, and made time to crack open the Fat Tire amber ale for a quick sample. The label on the tall bottle is a work of art — a gorgeous painting of an old red bicycle, framed in flowing hop vines. It even featured a small banner at the top that read: South Carolina Commemorative: Pedalling into the Palmetto State" (nice touch!).
Much lighter in color than expected, we discovered that the Fat Tire looks more orange than amber. It poured nicely into the glass with a creamy white head. At 5.2 percent (alcohol by volume), it's of basic strength and very drinkable. While there's a hint of pungent "noble" (German or Czech) hops balancing the caramel malt aroma, a malty sweetness dominates the flavor. The pleasant hop flavor and mild bitterness in the initial taste actually dissipates quickly, while the caramel and toasted malt flavors linger. There's an unusual balance between bitterness and sweetness, but in the finish, the sweet, burnt-sugar/butterscotch flavors linger. There's also a little bit of saltiness in the aftertaste as well.
Crisp, a little buttery, flavorful, and medium-bodied, the Fat Tire might catch on big with local beer lovers. Curious enthusiasts can sample some Fat Tire this evening (Mon. June 1) and into the week, New Belgium leads a "kick-off" series of pub crawls around town. Listed below are the hotspots on the list.
Monday, June 1 (Downtown)
Kickin' Chicken — 6 p.m.
Moe's Downtown Tavern — 7 p.m.
The Griffon — 8 p.m.
Tuesday, June 2 (North Charleston/West Ashley)
Sesame —5 p.m.
The Mill — 5:30 p.m.
Madra Rua Pub — 6 p.m.
Wednesday, June 3 (Folly Beach)
Planet Follywood — 7:30 p.m.
Snapper Jack's — 8 p.m.
Taco Boy — 9 p.m.
Thursday, June 4 (East Cooper — bike riders get complimentary beer)
Wild Wing Café — 5 p.m.
Poe's Tavern — 6 p.m.
Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ — 7:30 p.m.
Off the Hook — 8 p.m.