Editor's Note: So many beers, so little time. One Big Bottle spotlights the brews we're sipping, one by one.
There are few beer-related conversation starters more divisive than asking beer geeks what they think about Fat Tire. Some respond with effusive praise, others decry it as one of the most overrated brews around. For me, it was the bottle-shaped college-era gateway that took me beyond Natural Light and showed me that beer could have, well, flavor. I'm on the record as a Fat Tire fan, and I'll still almost always order it whenever I find myself in a market that carries it. So naturally when I heard that New Belgium Brewing Co. was celebrating its 20-year anniversary by reimagining Fat Tire as part of their Lips of Faith series, I special ordered some as soon as I heard it'd hit shelves.
To create the souped-up Super Cru, New Belgium doubled Fat Tire's malt and hop bill, added Asian pear juice, and switched in a Saison yeast strain for good measure. The result is a lean-bodied, crystal clear amber beer that bears but a faint resemblance to its former self. The beer weighs in at 10% ABV with an assertive booziness. Initial tart pear aroma and flavor become softer midsip, combining with a cotton candy sweetness. The yeast lends a tropical fruit character that reminded me of certain Tripels and French Saisons. There's a bit of Fat Tire's trademark biscuity malt character present, but it's otherwise a different beer altogether. Overall, I expected a bit more depth and complexity.
The other part of New Belgium's second Lips of Faith installment this year isn't new, but it's been a while since it's been available. New Belgium brews Abbey Grand Cru after every 1,000 batches of its hallmark Abbey. It pours a deep mahogany with impressive lacing. The mouthfeel is smooth and full, but it finishes dry. I got rich aromas of dates, cocoa, caramelized bananas, maraschino cherry, and a bit of clove. Abbey Grand Cru's 9.5% ABV leaves a fair amount of alcohol in the finish, but it's not overbearing or harsh. It's a beefier Dubbel that will stand among the best Belgian-style ales the U.S. has to offer. Enjoy one now, but pick up another and let it age for a while.