New Belgium is quickly becoming my favorite brewery. They consistently produce exceptional beers. Although I may not be the biggest fan of everything they create that is more of a matter of style preference than a reflection on the beer itself. Every New Belgium beer I have consumed had one thing in common; balance (something that seems to be lacking in many contemporary pints).
As the American market for interesting beer continues to move away from imports and towards American craft brewed beer the consumer is bombarded with variety. This has lead me to sample a few pints that just didn't get it quite right. There seems to be an endless selection now a days. Don't get me wrong this is a great thing. Variety and experimentation are what keep me passionate about home brewing. The issue is more a matter of refinement than variety, and with so many choices on tap one or two are bound to be a bit less refined than the rest.
I love American craft beer, I want to work in the American craft beer industry. This resurgence of passionate, talented brewing in America is amazing. Yet sometimes I'll try something new and wonder why the hell something so out of balance is on the market. I'm a bit of a hop head but that doesn't mean that I want my tongue to be assaulted by every Pale Ale and IPA I drink. There are those exceptional few that balance bitter and sweet better than the rest. This is kind of refinement is something that a larger proportion of imported beers have over American craft beer. With New Belgium Brewing however, there is both variety and refinement.
Before transplanting my life to central Texas my exposure to New Belgium had been limited to the occasional 12oz bottle of Fat Tire (which may not be the most exciting brew in the world but is damn good all the same). For this session I'll be reviewing 1554 Enlightened Black Ale.
Style: Belgian dark ale
Vessel: Tulip glass (poured from a 12oz bottle)
Appearance: Deep brown almost black with a slight reddish tint. Proudly pours with a half inch head which holds throughout most of the session. Great lacing. A beautiful beer. (5/5)
Aroma: Roasted malt, Coffee, Tobacco and earthy undertones. (3.5/5)
Flavor: Big time Chocolate malt going on here. There are also some toffee and roasted malt flavors present. Moderately sweet and mildly hoppy. Yet despite the malt level and sweetness the flavor is clean and light. No alcohol flavor present. (4.5/5)
Mouth Feel: Light bodied with a clean carbonation feel. Mildly warming alcohol feel. No astringency present. (4.5/5)
Overall: In one word, smooth. When you pour a pint of 1554 and notice its deep brown almost black color and its soft creamy head you expect a full bodied malt explosion. This is not the case here. This is a dark Belgian Ale that manages to be light, and dare I say refreshing? Everything about this brew was pleasantly surprising. Completely delicious and well balanced. 1554 may just become one of my staples. (17.5/20) 88%