Goose Island IPA and Blue Moon are my “stadium beers.” If craft beer is your drink of choice, you probably have a similar list. They’re the beers that you can find pretty much anywhere these days—outdoor music festivals, airplanes, tailgates—they’re your go-to in these mostly craft-less environments. Fat Tire is a beer that’s sometimes available in these settings, but, for me, it’s too malty to a mainstay. I’ll always skip a Fat Tire in favor of something with hops or a more interesting yeast.
I was excited to read that employee-owned brewery New Belgium Brewing Company was releasing a new Belgian white as part of the “Fat Tire trademark family.” It would be called Fat Tire White Ale and could just be the upgrade I’ve been seeking for my next $16 concert beer.
The beer’s description, “brewed with juicy Seville orange peel and freshly ground coriander,” might sound like another familiar beer’s ingredient list which boasts, “Valencia orange peel and a touch of coriander.” You know, that beer garnished with an orange segment. That beer that has become synonymous with the Belgian white style. Yes, that beer called Blue Moon, which is Fat Tire White’s obvious, if lofty, competition. Can New Belgium’s craft interpretation take down one of the country's most recognizable beers?
Support the employee-owned brewery or get the beer that tastes a little better.”
Fat Tire White pours a light shade of gold, which is slightly cloudy from the oats in the malt base. The soapy white head disappears almost instantly, which is disappointing in a Belgian-style beer. I would let a small but persistent head slide for a mass-produced beer, but none at all is an oversight.
The flavor that stands out most is an orange-juice-concentrate-like sting of citrus at the end of each swallow. It’s not unpleasant and my palette became accustomed to it before I finished the glass. It could be that the Seville orange peel, also known as “sour orange,” imparts a sharper flavor than the sweet Valencia peel used in Blue Moon. My guess is this beer is slightly more acidic overall than other widely available Belgian whites. The coriander and grains of paradise flavors can’t complete with the beer’s strong wheat quality and are almost undetectable. Even the taste of clove, which should be present as a result of fermentation with Belgian yeast, is faint or a total figment of my imagination, because I just know it should be there in a witbier style.
As for how it stands up next to its main competitor: During a blind taste-test against its beer counterpart, Blue Moon, the two tasted different, for sure, but I had a hard time choosing which was the newcomer. I took an educated guess and I was correct that the beer in my left hand, which I described as, “flat Hoegaarden,” was the Fat Tire White.
When it comes down to it, next time I’m in a stadium and both this new Fat Tire and Blue Moon are available, it will be a tough decision. I’ll pass the time in the undoubtedly long line, considering my options: Support the employee-owned brewery or get the beer that tastes a little better. I think I’ll go with taste.