Not All Rangers Are From Texas
by Eric Griffith and Mimi Griffith
First I saw two new posters from New Belgium then I turned the corner and ran into a Beer Ranger milling around the stage. The light bulb came on…tonight we will learn the secrets of New Belgium Brewery and their Beer Rangers. Not sure what a “Beer Ranger” is? Well, neither was I when the night started, but evidently it involves spreading the word about New Belgium Brewing and wearing a cool looking green shirt that reminds me of my Cub Scout uniform except with a much snazzier looking patch emblazoned with “To Protect – To Pour – To Partake.” I can almost see myself as a Ranger right now….
One can dream, right? Visit www.newbelgium.com/rangerland to get in uniform.
The Wife Takes Control
Ok honey, enough of your fantasies, let me tell everyone what they really missed at Beer School. We were introduced to Joel and Adam from New Belgium Brewing which will celebrate its 20th Anniversary on June 29, 2011. The brewery is located in Fort Collins, Colorado and in 1998 became the first wind-powered brewery in the country. I really liked how sustainability within the company was such a focus. They tried to drive home the point that being “green” is part of their mission, and that makes New Belgium appeal to me before I even try their beers.
This was the first time I have seen two different presenters on the stage at once, but it worked really well because they were very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their product. The mood was fun and upbeat. They scored major points with me for handing out lots of goodies. Each student received a pocket-journal for beer tasting notes before class and after class everyone got a pint glass, bottle opener and lip balm. And while I was not lucky enough to answer a trivia question correctly, those that did received a large glass New Belgium beer pitcher.
Tasting– The New Belgium Way
This is an alternate, less productive, way to taste beer!
Before beer #1, Joel took us through the steps of proper beer tasting. First take a look at the beer and note the color, clarity and foam. Next, do an aroma “drive-by” which involves wafting the beer across your nose. Then take a long sniff to get the full nose of the beer. Now drink, but hold the beer in your mouth before you swallow. And finally take a second sip and this time as you swallow, exhale through your nose. They call this “retronasal” and it helps put the aroma and taste together for your senses to get the full intent of the beer. See, you always learn something new at Beer School. Now let’s get to the beers.
Fat Tire Amber Ale (On Tap at Cicero’s)
This is New Belgium’s flagship beer and was created by founder Jeff Lebesch as he biked across Europe. Our Beer Ranger informed us that this is a difficult beer to make and takes about 21 days to brew. It appears amber in color as the style implies and is well balanced at 18.5 IBUs and 5.5% ABV.
She says- It just seemed like a well balanced basic beer very sessionable, but a day later I will not be able to describe the beer.
He says- I have known of this beer since the late 90’s when I lived in Colorado. It has been a gateway beer for many craft drinkers and for that we say thank you. It actually tasted better tonight than I remembered. Nice toasted biscuit flavor with just a touch of hops to help with the balance. I would recommend this beer to new craft beer drinkers.
2º Below Winter Ale (On Tap at Cicero’s)
Drink up if you are fan of 2º Below because this beer will soon be retired and replaced next year by a new seasonal called Snow Day. This beer was described as “a winter warmer meets hops.” Similar color and malt profile to Fat Tire, but more hops (32 IBUs) and a little bit stronger at 6.6% ABV.
She says- I thought its hop profile was evident, but not overwhelming. It is a nice winter beer, but not strong enough to be a fireplace beer for me.
He says- New Belgium does a great job with their labels and 2º Below is no exception. But the label makes me want a darker or stronger beer for a bitter cold day. I do like the spice that comes through and it is a very easy drinking beer to me. I don’t even notice the 6.6% ABV, but maybe that is what I am missing. For a winter warmer I would like a little punch of alcohol burn.
Ranger IPA (On Tap at Cicero’s)
This beer is named for the Beer Rangers who market New Belgium across 26 states and kept going back to the “mothership” and telling the brewers that people want more hops….they want an IPA. Finally the brewers obliged with this 70 IBU beer stuffed with 3 pounds of Cascade, Simcoe and Chinook hops.
She says- It is right up my alley, dry and hoppy. Being the hophead I am, I love it. The dry hopping is evident from the first sniff. Very drinkable and it will probably be my homework this week.
He says- A year ago I might have run from this beer, but now that I have learned to like hops it is very enjoyable. The hops lean to the piney side as opposed to the fruity side that I prefer. Just at the limit of my hop tolerance so I appreciate the dark caramel malts that add some balance. The price also makes this an attractive IPA and I applaud New Belgium for keeping their prices low.
Sahti Ale- Lips of Faith Series
This Finnish rye ale was a new style for most of the beer school crowd, including us. Evidently this farmhouse beer was brewed in Finland starting in the 1500’s and the distinguishing feature is the fact that the beer is filtered through juniper twigs. The original beers had no hops, but of course New Belgium has added Cascade and Amarillo to the equation to bring this beer into the 21st Century.
She says- Not that familiar with the farmhouse ale. I definitely got the balance of malt and hop and I found it very easy drinking, but more earthy than an IPA.
He says- After the IPA my palette had a difficult time picking out all the different flavors, but I did get some citrus from the orange and lemon peel and earthy hop notes. Not sure if I got juniper, but I did enjoy the beer. Very drinkable for 7.2% ABV. Try it if you want to explore an unheralded style from the past.
Check out this cool New Belgium commercial produced by St. Louis local company, Action Box Productions. They made it specifically for Cicero’s Punch Drunk Comedy. Punch Drunk Comedy is the comedy show, sponsored by New Belgium, that takes place the second Sunday of each month at Cicero’s.
About the Authors – Husband and wife Eric and Mimi have been attending beer school for about a year now and love every minute of it. Mimi was born and raised in St. Louis. Besides sitting down with a fabulous pint of beer, she enjoys gardening and spending time with her horse. Eric was born and raised in Texas. He enjoys sports and searching for the next great beer. A search he says he has been on for five years and one that will certainly never end. Mimi, on the other hand, just realized beer actually has flavor about a year ago. After having moved away for a few years, in 2007, this happy couple moved back to St. Louis and is enjoying all the St. Louis beer scene has to offer, especially Cicero’s Beer School. Cicero’s is lucky to have such an enthusiastic couple writing the beer school blog!