New Belgium Fat Tire

New Belgium Fat Tire
New Belgium’s Fat Tire Amber Ale

This here is the one that made New Belgium the 8th largest brewery in the USA, although they were 7th last year. The Fat Tire Amber Ale is their flagship beer, famous by now, to the point that the image of the bicycle on this label has become NB’s company logo. So i figured i’d better take the opportunity to try it off the pick-a-six rack, since New Belgium has recently invaded New York, which was once New Amsterdam, why’d they change it i can’t say, people just liked it better that waaaaaaay!

Label says it’s 5.2% alk so that’s about average for a crafty drafty. No other info about malts or hops, except to call the malts “biscuit-like” and i have no idea what that means. Although, now that i chew that over in my mind, a barley biscuit sounds like a damn good idea. As usual for a NB beer, there is an “Enjoy By” date, but it’s in a wobbly mangled font, printed so small that only the mice in your fridge will ever know.

Color is lighter than what normal people call “amber” and this is not an IPA so a nosefull out of the glass is not notable, just smells like beer, so onward to the tasting. Good solid flavor, light carbonation, i don’t taste any biscuits but on the other hand i don’t taste any sausage gravy either, so there’s that to be thankful for.

There are malts a-plenty to taste, certainly. Hops are a singular flavor note, not remarkable but then again this is normal beer, and i’ve gotten used to the hopblast of modern IPA’s, so i’m more apt to note what’s missing than what’s there in this regard. This is sweet, or maybe it’s just missing the sour, maybe i’m not qualified to taste-test an amber ale at this point?

The beer body is pretty good. There’s more than one malt, or perhaps the same malt in varying stages of roastedness all combined, there is a hint of lemony taste which does not seem to come from the hops themselves. Refreshing, low enough in alk to make it a casual friendly drinking beer, and quality taste. But can’t do that, since as noted in a previous NB review, their beers are pretty expensive.

Rating? Hmmm, a good beer but i prefer lagers for friendly drinking and there are some fine specimens of that which are lower in price. So i will likely not run up my tab for a full sixer of this, but glad to have tried it. If it were a few bux lesser then i would buy it now and then for a change-up. But it’s not cheap, so a 6.8 is about all i can raise this up to. And now i’m gonna have that Constantinople song playing in my head for hours.

Kuka IPA

Kuka IPA
Kuka’s IPA

OK, that’s an odd one. Name is Kuka IPA, the subtitle is “ale brewed with maca root.” Made by the Andean Brewing Co., in Blauvelt New York, certainly in the foothills of that part of New York bordering Peru. Right? I didn’t even know what maca root was, but the Wikipedia says it was found at “the Meseta of BomBom close to Junin Lake” in 1843. Riiiight, just outside the Bronx i’m sure. And then it says: “women had to be protected from the Inca warriors, as reportedly they became ambitiously virile from eating such quantities of maca.”

So this is America, so obviously we’ll put it into beer because, well because America. USA! USA! USA! The extra odd thing about this beer is that it’s gold-ish almost to amber, but it’s completely opaque. What it really looks like is fresh raw cider, but it smells like a very hopped IPA. So far so good, and so far, so odd.

The moment of taste: whoah, that’s really odd. There’s beer, there’s hops, but there’s something else in there, must be the maca, a bitter and leathery taste, like an old shoe that was worn while stomping radishes. The Inca thought it was a delicacy, but “studies have shown a very low acceptance of the particular maca taste in consumers when first exposed to it. Apparently, the taste is acquired,” meaning that if you already like radish shoes, then you’ll simply love maca.

Huh. More sips and my tongue’s able to separate out more of the beer and hop tastes to better isolate the maca. Slightly sweet, if you’ve ever eaten a raw plantain, then think of that. Or biting the white part of a leek. Huh, this is odd beer. Not terrible, but i think it might take a while to ‘acquire’ this taste. I can see why they tried this with an IPA, the strong hops are like an overcoat, masking the maca from indecent exposure. And trust me, they needed some whomping hops to do that.

The beer reports itself as 6.2% alk, probably a good idea in this case, not a bad thought to bump it up to 7.2% in v2.0 if that ever happens. It’s a physically thick beer, the last few drops came out of the bottle with more of a drab than a drip, and getting to the bottom of this glass it seems even thicker. Not sure if it’s my imagination, but my head is starting to feel a little funny here. It’s like i’m over-alert but it’s different than a caffeine or nicotine alertness. There’s no heart-rate bump and no fine-focused awareness like with caff or nick. It’s like a relaxed intentness, makes me feel like i want to breathe deeper and makes my feet fidgety.

OK, am going to set this review down for a quarter hour and try to figure out what exactly is going on here…

Wow, and i mean wow. Maca root is something real, unlike most goofy diet supplements. This was my first beer o’ the evening, and at 6.2% alcohol it shouldn’t have done this to me. Not exactly a 90-pound weakling here, and i have dranked beer before. I recall that the first beer in your life hits you with a hammer, but i am, let’s just say, “experienced”. I normally have a new beer for review before anything else in the day, freshly arrived at home, when my palate is clear. And 6.2% alk is not enough to make me swimmy. But this one did.

Not really drunk, but all squirelly. I feel the alk, which i shouldn’t. I feel calm but ready to go, tingly in the calves and mind rolling from thing to thing, with a strange kind of concentration but unable to groove on any one thing for long. Wonder if this is what ADHD feels like? Interferes with the ability to write, like so many words are just beyond the tip of my tongue.

Yeah, i can see what this does to me and extrapolate what “copious amounts of maca” might do to an Inca warrior. Totally can imagine running off into the jungle with a club, and if we don’t find the enemy, just might thud a few unlucky sloths on the noggin.

The aftertaste of this beer clings to the sides of the tongue, where the ‘bitter’ buds reside. The taste got better, as in less odd, as the glass emptied. But the psycho-physio effects are remarkable. Feel sped but without the nasty effects of normal upping compounds. Alas, don’t really feel “ambitiously virile” but then again i only had one bottle of this, lucky for the lady sloths.

Not sure how to rate this drink. It’s not really an IPA, just a delivery vehicle for maca. The taste is not great compared to real beer IPA’s, this might rate a 4 or 5 purely as a beer. Reading more on Wiki, maca contains “(1R,3S)-1-methyltetrahydro-carboline-3-carboxylic acid, a molecule which is reported to exert many activities on the central nervous system.” Damn slappy true there. Now i’m all cooked up so won’t bother reviewing another beer this evening, wouldn’t be able to be objective, and this should wear off by tomorrow. Hopefully.

What i can tell you is that there’s something going on inside a bottle of Kuka IPA, try it and judge for yourself. Holy crap, this beer is nutso. As a beer i’d rate it a 4.1 but as an interesting experience this gets an 8.1 so might as well split the diffy and call it at 6.1 …but don’t call that a low review, you’ll have to try this yourself.

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA

Ballast Point's - Sculpin IPA
Ballast Point – Sculpin IPA

At last, it’s time for the highly anticipated Sculpin. One ugly damned fish on the label, i think if i caught one i’d just lash my pole up and down on the deck until that nasty thing fell off the hook. Then i’d kick the squishy remains overboard. But the IPA named for the thing comes highly recommended. When i went looking for an answer to what a “session” IPA is, the Goog threw me to a website with small useful articles about all kinds of beer terms. And there, a short list of IPA’s, the ones that writer thought were top-notch.

Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA was on that list. So here is me, with a sculpin in my glass, at long last. Damned expensive, $15 for a six-pack, so had to wait until i found one on a pick-a-six rack. COlor is a shade dimmer than golden, and the noseful of grapefruit in the glass portends well here. There’s bubbles, nozzled out of nowhere at a few points inside the glass, so we know it’s carbonated, which will be a nice change from those Uinta beers.

And a sip o’ sculp… ooo, that’s nice. Creamy, hoppy, balanced beer body is not overwhelmed. A smidge of piney hops, taste is less fruity than the smell was, and the fruit notes are a little more sweet than tart. At 7.0% alk, this is not a minnow, but not a whale either. That sweetness makes the hops more floral than zesty, and make no mistake, the hops are center stage. The beer body lurks in the wake, not obliterated but not jumping out in front of the bowsprit.

This one has the “balance.” Body just sturdy enough to support hi-hopping, alcohol is just high enough to keep volatile oils squeezed from the hops in solution. Near the end of the glass, the hops turn more piney and the body peeks out a touch more. Not a Top Fiver, but a very concentrated attempt at making a great IPA. Easy to drink despite 7.0% and the flavors don’t overwhelm the experience. Mighty fine beer, better than BP’s Big Eye IPA, i’ll give this a respectable 8.5 for high hops and good balance.