My local supermarket has gone all-in on the craft beer game, hosting tastings, tearing out sections of the store to install more shelf space for beer, and installing self-service create your own six-pack space.
I like the mix-a-six option because it gives me the opportunity to try a beer without taking a dive on a six- or 12-pack. This sort of freedom also comes back to bite me in the butt because I’m a terribly indecisive person when it comes to beer. On a bad day, it can take me 20 to 30 minutes to pick out six different beers (in the meantime, my wardrobe is mostly comprised of clothes that I barely glanced at while walking around L.L. Bean). Even on my sharpest days, I can find five beers without a problem. That elusive sixth, though, presents issues.
Part of it is that I have high standards, which often manifests itself as snobbery. Part of it is that I don’t want to be disappointed, though. What if the other five beers stink and I like the sixth beer a lot? Great, now I have another reason to prolong the trip. Digressing, when I have a hard time making the last selection, I tend to grab a beer by a brewery that I really like.
This is how I ended up with the metallic blue can of New Belgium Brewing Company’s Dayblazer in my paperboard carrier.
It smells like beer.”
I discovered New Belgium on a summer vacation to the Outer Banks in 2009. It had just arrived in North Carolina as part of a big push east and restaurants up and down the sandbar were pouring Fat Tire like it was water. I remember it being cold and crisp with a nice balance of hops and malt; the perfect amber ale to accompany the gluttonous mound of crab legs on the plate in front of me.
I spent the week garbaging up on it and the since departed summer beer called Skinny Dip, before buying a case to lug home. I got other friends hooked and became their mule, smuggling hot beer over state lines (five of them, actually). Finally, in 2016, New Belgium made it to New York and made my packing easier by freeing up a beer case-sized spot in the back of my SUV (Actually, that’s a lie. I just buy other stuff I can’t get back home.).
New Belgium introduced seven new beers to kickoff 2017, six of which are ales. The Dayblazer Easygoing Ale marks the brewery’s second attempt at a session beer. Slow Ride IPA debuted in 2014 as a 4.5% alcohol IPA made with eight different hops. It was certainly passable but lagged behind far superior products like Founders’ All Day IPA, Firestone Walker’s Easy Jack IPA, and Stone’s exceptional Go To IPA.
Slow Ride, intended as a year-round beer, has since disappeared from the list of regular beers on New Belgium’s website. The only remaining trace of it might be the single bottle in my cellar that I just never got around to drinking.
Dayblazer, though not an IPA, is clearly an attempt to cut into Founders’ share of the session market. It rings in at 4.8%. It’s canned in both 12- and 24-ounce vessels, the smaller size sold in 15 packs. New Belgium promises “A deliciously refreshing golden ale... brewed with the finest malts and hops giving a sweet, crisp citrus finish with just a hint of honey.”
I had my wife take a whiff of the Dayblazer and she came away with the same answer as I did, “It smells like beer.” The aroma is completely nondescript, reminding me of the pitchers of Labatt Blue and Budwesier we slugged back in college. Even as an ale, it smelled very much like those adjunct lagers of my past. And it looked like them as well. Clear as a bell and golden as the sun on the edge of the the cobalt blue can, the Dayblazer was capped by a fingerwide head that quickly turned into thin suds.
Not much happens from a mouthfeel perspective. It’s very watery and the body is light. Flavors of bready malts open the beer, followed by a carbonated burn. I wouldn’t characterize the finish as sweet, crisp or citrusy, as New Belgium did. It finished clean, as the watery feel wiped the remainder of the beer off the palette without much bitterness or fight.
The primary reason why craft beer drinkers tend to avoid session beers is the belief that it’s an inferior product; just a watered-down version of whatever beer came before it. Where others have broken the mold, New Belgium falls into the trap.