A vintage fat-tired mountain bike is a fitting symbol for Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing Co. Riding a bicycle is a balancing act. If you don’t keep moving, you’re liable to fall off. Today, few craft breweries have better balance and movement than New Belgium. As the fourth-largest craft brewery in the United States, New Belgium not only produces world-class craft beers, it promotes environmental stewardship, employee-ownership and increasingly aggressive growth, like its new brewery and Liquid Center in Asheville (which will brew 500,000 barrels annually and support upward of 140 jobs, opening in 2016).
Balancing success is a recipe that can be traced back to its flagship beer — Fat Tire Amber Ale — which today is one of the most popular craft beers in America. It’s so popular in fact that New Belgium actually redesigned its company logo in 2006 to include the famous bike on the Fat Tire label because customers recognized New Belgium’s amber ale more than they recognized New Belgium. The beer itself is a lesson in equilibrium.
How do we know? Well, New Belgium will be celebrating 25 years in business in 2016. That’s a pretty impressive feat. How are they celebrating? The Fort Collins-Colo.-based brewery will release five collaboration beers reinterpreting the Fat Tire flagship beer in a mixed 12-pack called the “Riff Pack.”
There’s a lot of history here
Fat Tire Amber Ale was a beer that was first conceived on a bike ride through Belgium and came to life as a homebrew in the late 1980s. Spurred on by friends and homebrewing awards, New Belgium co-founders Kim Jordan and Jeff Lebesch took the beer commercial in 1991. Today, the 100 percent employee-owned company is now distributing in 41 states. What kind respect does this company get in the industry? New Belgium brewers teamed up with brewing friends at Allagash Brewing Co. (Portland, Maine), Avery Brewing Co. (Boulder, Colo.), Firestone Walker (Paso Robles, Calif), Hopworks Urban Brewery (Portland, Ore.) and Rhinegeist Brewery (Cincinnati, Ohio) for the project.
Mixed 12-packs will feature two New Belgium original Fat Tire Amber Ales plus two of each interpretation beer. The beer will release mid-June, prior to New Belgium’s 25th anniversary, officially on June 28. A party at New Belgium’s new brewery in Asheville on August 27 will celebrate that facility’s grand opening as well as 25 years of brewing innovation and good times.
“In the early days, we used to say that if we could just sell 60 cases of beer a week we’d be a success,” Jordan said. “It’s a different landscape these days yet the things that make our work meaningful — community, camaraderie, creativity — are still alive and well. Working with so many great friends and talented brewers while reimagining Fat Tire is the perfect way to celebrate all the things we love most about our craft.”
New Belgium reached out to collaboration partners who were longtime friends and innovative brewers. For the mixed 12-pack, Allagash is producing a version of Fat Tire using a Belgian yeast sourced from the Poperinge region and a touch of the Allagash house Brettanomyces – expect notes of stone fruit, sweet tart and peppercorn; Avery will focus on a fruitier hop bill also with a dose of Brett, evoking notes of apricot and pineapple; Firestone Walker is creating a west coast interpretation of Fat Tire with an assertive hop profile and a light lager yeast; Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) is creating a tart Fat Tire bringing in apple and lactobacillus to help highlight that beautiful green apple snap inherent to the original Fat Tire; and Rhinegeist has transformed Fat Tire into a Belgian XPA, combining a fruity Belgian yeast strain with bready-sweet European and Colorado malts for a beer to please hopheads and wine drinkers alike.