You know, I really do like New Belgium as a brewery. Although they’re picked on a bit by snobbier beer geeks, I think they make a lot of solid, basic offerings that are often good values for where they’re priced. I’m not talking about Lips of Faith series beers. I’m talking about year-rounders and their constantly rotating seasonals, which seem to be replaced by new ones on a yearly basis. It’s a little confusing.
Because they seem to be a good value, I find myself buying New Belgium beer on a fairly regular basis in Central Illinois. I’m just a sucker for getting a good deal–when I go to my local brew store, the NB offerings are there on the shelf for $7.99 per six pack, even for things like the Abbey Ale or Tripel. Compare that to $11.99 for everything from Bells for example, and the choice is easy. I may find their beers to be of “pretty comparable” quality, but there’s very little that could make me buy a similar six-pack for 12 bucks when I could get it for eight.
And so, my willingness to drop money on New Belgium means that I end up trying most of the seasonal releases. The most recent is the Red Hoptober, which i assumed (fairly, I think) to be a hoppy American red ale when I caught it on the shelves. I’m not sure that descriptor is all that accurate, however. Tasting note follows:
New Belgium Red Hoptober
NOTES: 12 oz bottle, poured into tulip glass.
ABV: 6% abv, American red ale
APPEARANCE: Very, very dark red into brown. Looks dark brown in normal light and deep red when held up to the light. About as dark as something can be when you have “red” in the title, with a little bit of thin, off-white foam.
AROMA: Sweet and with strong nutty and toasted aroma. There’s something that smells like burnt sugar. It reminds me of the smell when a drop of malt extract falls onto the burner during a homebrew session. I can’t really pick up on the hops, which is worrisome.
TASTE: Lots of caramel and that nutty flavor comes back again. It’s pretty sweet. There are piney hops here as well. It tastes like a “darker beer” than an American red ale normally would, like a strong American brown, which is not a favorite style for me.
MOUTHFEEL: Medium, carbonation isn’t that strong.
DRINKABILITY: A little on the sweet side, but goes down pretty easy I suppose.
OVERALL: There’s something going on in this beer that just seems a bit out of whack to me. I have a tendency to grade things harsher when they don’t fit what I think they should taste like, and this is no exception. I don’t get the hops in the right way in this beer, and the style of malt sweetness just doesn’t fit well with the hops that are there. I give it 2 hops.