Fat Tire Amber Ale

Review Date 8/22/2002  Last Updated 6/16/2016 By John Staradumsky


Ah, the elusive Fat Tire Amber Ale. Itís a beer Iívebeen looking for for a very long time, and one that has until recently eluded me, along with the many other fine beers the company brews Usually Belgian-inspired in style and almost always highly recommended, the many brews of New Belgium Brewing have something of a cult mystique about them on the East Coast, especially among beer geeks eager to try them but without access. I recall when I lived in Rhode Island a liquor store owner who tried repeatedly to get someone to bring them into the state. Sadly, he never did.

New Belgium is based in Colorado, a state that takes its beer seriously indeed. Many years ago, another Colorado brewerís beers achieved legendary status out east, and people went to great lengths to secure supplies of this amazing brew from Golden, Colorado. That beer, of course, was Coors, which went on to be available nationally. Will the same some day be true of New Belgium beers? Only time will tell.

Today, a mystique similar to the one that surrounded Coors has been raised around New Belgium brews. The brewery claims to receive a plethora of phone calls and e-mails daily demanding to know when their coveted products will be available in other states. For now, distribution is limited to a small portion of the western United States.

Brewer Jeff Lebesch was inspired to create his brewery while traveling through Belgium on a fat-tired bicycle (the inspiration for the name of this wonderful beer). Shortly after returning home, he founded New Belgium Brewing in 1991 in the basement of his home in Fort Collins. The rest, as they say, is history and New Belgium now brews just about every conceivable Belgian style.

Of all the brews New Belgium produces, Fat Tire Amber may well be the most accessible to just about anyone. Itís not an overbearing beer by any means and that makes it a brew that those who donít always drink craft beers still may enjoy. At the same time, the craft beer enthusiast will revel in its wonderful balance and crisp, delicate flavors. I certainly did.

Fat Tire Amber pours to a ruby-golden color with a thick, bubbly head formation and a toasty malt nose. The beer is indeed spectacular to behold. A solid wall of bubbles builds against the side of the glass and rises to the top in a steady procession. As you sip, a fine Brussels lace* forms on the sides of the glass. The palate is gently toasty and delicate with rich crystal malt notes hinting at light caramel and a touch of fruit leading into a nicely balanced hop finish.

I love the subtle balance of this beer. It has lots of flavor, but none of the flavors overpower the others. A touch of yeast fruit, a note of malt caramel, a hint of bitter hop all work together smoothly. Truly delightful, I paired it with a seasoned roast chicken bursting with garlic slivers inserted into the meat to great effect.

*Brussels lace is merely foam residue that you can see on the glass above the beer level after sipping. It may follow the beer all the way to the bottom of the glass. To best appreciate this effect and to best generate a good head on your brew, avoid washing your beer glasses (you do have dedicated beer glasses, donít you?) with excess detergent. Use as little as possible and rinse thoroughly, since detergents will break down the proteins that hold your beer's head together. Oily residue from fatty foods on your lips will do the same when sipping a beer, too.

Update August 24, 2013: Hard for me to believe, but it looks like it's been over ten years since I've had a Fat Tire Amber. Not by design, mind you, because from the time I bought my first six-pack in Dallas to the time New Belgium became available here in Georgia a good 7 years elapsed. When we could get them here, I was focusing on the ones I hadn't tried before.

Last week, though, I picked up a Folly Pack of 5 different beers with a few bottles of Fat Tire in it. I've popped one tonight, and I do enjoy the wonderful maltiness of the beer. it's less toasty than I remember (though I get a bit of that) and more chewy with thick caramel notes. My bottle is very fresh, having a best before date of October 27, 2013. It was also a bargain at $12.99 for the 12-pack. I've paid more for six-packs of craft beer these days.

I've rated this down a half star from 11 years ago, but don't let that fool you. It's still a delicious malty ale that's easy to drink and flavorful, too.

Update November 30th, 2014: Fat Tire Amber Ale is a staple beer at my local Taco Mac, and its almost always on tap. Still, it usually gets passed over for other beers I haven't tried before. Today though a brimming mug of Fat Tire Amber Ale was just the thing while watching football here, and the smooth maltiness was welcome and tasty indeed. At just $5.50, it was a good deal, too.

Update 6/16/2016: New Belgium is beer of the month for June of 2106 here at Taco Mac. Enjoying this malty, smooth-drinking amber ale tonight and taking home a free Citradellic pint glass. Still a deal at $5.50.

Glad I tried it?  T

Would I rebuy it??


*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.

(B)=Bottled, Canned