Fat TireI’ve had several Fat Tires lately and frankly they have tasted a little off. Come to think of it, the 1554 Belgian Black Ale and Tripple Belgian Style Ale, also from New Belgium Brewery, have tasted funny as well.

Don’t get me wrong. I think New Belgium is a great brewery. They are one of the big dogs in the craft beer movement that is sweeping the nation and a pioneer in green brewing practices. I have called 1554 my favorite beer, in fact, until recently. Either my palette has changed, which is entirely possible given the fact that I have been trying expand my beer horizons by sampling a lot of different beers lately, or New Belgium’s beer has changed.

I talked to a guy not long ago that offered an explanation for the change in Fat Tire’s flavor. He’s one of those guys that can tell you what hops were used in a beer by the taste and smell. He is a certified beer judge with an educated palette who has contacts in the beer industry, though not at New Belgium. In other words, when it comes to beer, he knows what he’s talking about. His theory about the change in Fat Tire is that, because of the popularity of its flagship beer, New Belgium is basically brewing beyond its capacity. In order to meet the demand for its beer, the boil time has been shortened which has led to an increase in Dimethyl Sulfide in the beer.

So what do you think? Have New Belgium’s brews changed lately or is it just me?

Update: Please see New Belgium’s response kin the comments.

11 comments

  1. I’ve noticed that some beers from New Belgium seem to taste a bit different at times. In some cases it is just fine – same excellent beer I’ve come to know and love. But at other times, there just seems to be something a bit off. Fat Tire used to be one of my favorites, but I’ve moved on to stronger brews like IPA’s. On occasion I’ll go back to a Fat Tire and it seems different now. I guess it could be my palate is changing over time.

  2. Chris,

    Thanks for reaching out to us with your question about Fat Tire and 1554 and giving us an opportunity to respond. Any time we get a concern, a question or even kudo about the quality of our beer, those of us who write to consumers always check with the brewing experts here. When I forwarded your question and blog post to our assistant brewmaster and sensory specialist, the replies were passionate. I couldn’t imagine a better way to convey our commitment to making excellent beer than sending you their comments directly. Here’s what they had to say…

    “His pallet may have changed and I have to say that his friend is wrong. We are not brewing beyond our capacity as our brewhouse is sized for 800,000 barrels a year and we are currently brewing 500,000 barrels a year. We have not changed our boil time. Fat Tire DMS is 70 parts per billion, which is where it’s always been. The Merlin (brew kettle) gives us precise control over our DMS levels at the point of knockout so boil time does not determine our DMS.”
    – Grady Hull/Assistant Brewmaster

    “Did he drink it out of a bottle and then a glass?
    Is it just a different age beer?
    Did he store it in the garage?
    Unless you are doing an evaluation each time and actually recording and reviewing each new beer, your flavor memory is very short. Even if you do drink every day, you really can only hold about 3 months of data up there, so… memory drift may be working here rather than flavor drift.”

    “I would like to add something about our 30 expert taste panelists. Each day 12-15 of these highly and continuously trained panelists evaluate each batch. We have statistical packages that actually track visual, aroma, taste, Mouthfeel/body and overall flavor. Each brand has been fingerprinted and the statistics analyze the trueness to brand of the fresh sample looking for trends and anomalies. We know exactly if and how the flavor changes and respond to any problem or concern. We have never decided to cheapen our product in lieu of flavor and quality. This would never happen. We also have on-going shelf life studies and room temperature studies to make sure the best by date is always accurate. This is a highly sophisticated program and we take it very seriously.”
    -Lauren Salazar/Sensory Specialist

    Beer is a very dynamic substance. It can experience many changes due to light, temperature and time. All of our packaged goods are sold with a best buy date printed directly on the side – generally 90-120 days depending on product and one year for bottle-conditioned ales. Should the beer be warm-stored in extreme conditions, exposed to sunlight, or exceed its best buy date – many changes can occur. If the beer is being served on draft at a bar or restaurant, draft line maintenance can be an issue as well. We have a national field QA team who inspect and service our lines throughout our areas of distribution. It might be worth looking into how the beer was handled prior to consumption or what the beer was paired with when consumed.

    Another possibility in part is that beer is an agricultural product. While we use the same vendors for our malt, hops and spices, crops vary slightly from year to year due to the unpredictable nature of nature. Sunlight levels, cross-pollination, and water supplies can vary from year to year. Our brewing equipment is a science: our ingredients are a work of the environment. This is why we have such thorough and well-tested ‘objective’ specifications for our brews down to the parts per million.

    We’d sincerely love to have you visit us and join us for a fully transparent tour of all our brewing processes and sampling of the results. You can always send your comments, questions or concerns directly to New Belgium at nbb@newbelgium.com

    cheers,

    Bryan Simpson
    Media Relations
    New Belgium Brewing

  3. Thank you for the thorough response! As a home brewer I appreciate Grady’s and Lauren’s passionate response. It shows a passion for what they do and is, I’m sure, one of the reasons that NB is successful.

    I’m glad to know that NB has not changed its brewing process and that the process has so many quality checks built in. The complexity of our favorite beverage is both a blessing and a curse but that’s what makes it so enjoyable.

    Perhaps my palette has changed or I just bought some bottles that had been sitting in a warehouse too long. I never drink from the bottle and the bottles don’t last very long in my house but I can’t be sure of their age as I didn’t look at the date. I’ll have to buy some more and make sure they are fresh.

  4. Ive noted subtle differences in the 12 packs that i VERY frequently buy. I LOVE fat tire, it is definitely my favorite beer. I am a beginner homebrewer and would rather drink my own beer than just about any store-bought beer. The exception to the rule is Fat Tire. Every time i buy a half rack of beer, it is a gamble. There are very subtle diffrences in each batch. Personally, i think it is as a result of handling by the retailers, not any changes that New Belgium has made in the brewing process. Regardless, it is one of the best beers out there. Keep up the good work!!!

  5. This beer is BOMBASS!!!! I had this beer in phoenix, Arizona and when i came back home to los angeles it was the first thing on my shopping list. its not too Guinness and it not too Michelob light… I have been to several bar’s and nobody seems to have it…. Ask for it at your local bar’s cuz like i said….. this beer is BOMBASS!!!!!!! I HAVE been able to find this BOMBASS beer at the local mom and pop liquor store….

  6. Well I guess my palette has changed too, though I think the coincidence is unlikely. I used to love Fat Tire and now it tastes flavorless and boring, and its not just ft I can taste a difference with all NB beers, they all pretty much taste the same to me nowadays. I’ll keep trying though. And I’ll keep being disappointed, though still rock the Fat Tire sticker on my toolbox.

  7. YES!!!…I just bought “Somerset”, and it tasted flat to me…so much so that I opened another to make sure there wasn't something wrong with the first one. The second one tasted the same. And I found this site by googling if anyone else thought it tasted flat! Not my idea of a good beer.

  8. I'm a Colorado native who's been drinking Fat Tire since the mid-1990s and it used to be my favorite beer.  I love New Belgium Brewery and am a big fan of a lot of their beers, and — now that I'm out in California — am thrilled I can still buy my old brews.

    But, sadly– yes, it does taste different to me, and has for several years now.  The above theory makes sense to me and I suspected as much: the change in flavor coincides with the beer's expansion across the West and Mid-West.  It tastes watered down, with less malt, less hops, and less richness than before (I'll add the caveat here that this change in taste seems most noticeable in the bottles, opposed to tap…).  Oddly enough, when I tried one of their seasonal beers — 2° Below Winter Ale — it harkened back to some of the bite I feel Fat Tire has lost…

    I'm glad to see New Belgium do well, but call me crazy: Fat Tire ain't what it used to be.

    Cheers.

  9. sad that fat tire doesn’t taste like i remember it. i didn’t get that early stage of taste, but even this last couple years since i tried it, something is off, lots of water, it used to feel more bite and defined, as if it were a beer shake, just felt think, and smooth, with a stickiness left on your lips. i loved that, today i bought a six pack and it tasted like a 7 dollar six pack, NOT A 10$ SIX PACK. still has a bit of pudding on your tongue but nothing like it was 2 or 3 years ago.

  10. I know this post is quite old but i am inclined to comment because i have been pretty loyal to new Belgium over the last 6 years. I too occasionally notice fairly prominent alterations in flavor. However, they have always recouped or were slight enough that i didn’t mind( i expect slight inconsistency). The exception is with the latest batch… literally tastes like a coors…smh. :/ Pure disappointment

  11. I lived in Texas for 18 of my last 20 years. For the last 2 I have been in Charlotte, NC. And I can say definitively Fat Tire changed and I noticed it only after we landed in NC. Maybe it is the Asheville bottling process, the water, the shipping….but it is not the same beer I knew and loved in Austin. Fat Tire used to have one of the most distinctive first sips of any beer – always the same, always a bite and aroma that captured your attention. Haven’t experienced that since being in n the tap is slightly off, but the bottle is not the same….to the point where I cannot drink it anymore. Sad day!

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