With a Little Help from Their Friends

Using an array of techniques, yeast, hops and malts, New Belgium’s iconic “Fat Tire” Amber Ale will have multiple personalities in its upcoming 25th anniversary 12-pack this coming June — all with a little bit of help from its friends.

New Belgium hand picked five breweries (Allagash in Portland, Maine; Avery in Boulder, Colorado; Firestone Walker in Paso Robles, California; Hopworks Urban in Portland, Oregon; and Rhinegeist in Cincinnati, Ohio) to take part in a collaboration box that will see Fat Tire from many different angles.

For New Belgium, it is a way to celebrate the beer, and 25 years in the industry. For the breweries helping with the collab, it was a way to pay homage to a veteran brewery in the craft brewing industry; try their hand at re-creating a classic American craft beer, and have consumers from almost all over the country taste its beer for possibly the first time.

For Hopworks Urban brewer Christian Ettinger, his brewery has a limited footprint in the Pacific Northwest. HUB produced just over 13,000 barrels in 2015 and is planning its first six-pack release this year as it heads toward a planned 15,000 bbls by the end of 2016. Being asked to be in the 12-pack collab was immediately snapped up.

“We are flattered to work with cool people,” Ettinger said, noting that any extra awareness to them from having their name in line with New Belgium will only be “gravy.”

“For them to trust us with the project is awesome,” he added. “It’s super fun. We had a lot to learn from New Belgium, but first and foremost it’s fun. Sometimes the business part takes over and things like this reinforce that beer is fun.”

HUB’s version will bring in apple and lactobacillus to help highlight the green apple snap inherent to the original Fat Tire. All five variations will be produced at the Fort Collins, Colorado facility.


Rhinegeist is another up and coming brewery that can use the collaboration as a way to gain some more national attention. The Ohio brewery which put out 31,400 bbls in 2015 recently came in second for a reader’s choice poll for best new brewery, conducted by USA Today.

Rhinegeist has transformed Fat Tire into a Belgian XPA, combining a fruity Belgian yeast strain with bready-sweet European and Colorado malts.

“The collaboration with New Belgium is giving us great exposure,” said brand manager Tracey Ireland. “We’re excited to be included alongside breweries that we respect and think it will go a long way in terms of introducing us to new consumers that are in markets where we aren’t available.”

Rhinegeist will have a launch party to promote all the New Belgium collab styles on June 20 at the brewery where representatives from all six breweries will be on hand.

New Belgium PR director Bryan Simpson said that the brewery will have draft releases regionalized with hopes that these showcases will help sales of the 12-pack.

“We’ll tell each brewery’s stories in their area,” he said, noting that although he liked all the beers that have been run through pilot batches, he figures the public will be the one to dictate what will be the most popular version of the homages.

“Social media will light up with it,” he said. “There are so many great brands out there it’s fun to see what cuts through.”

Some, like Allagash, may not be able to do much marketing in-house though. Maine state laws do not allow other breweries to have its beer inside the taproom and New Belgium is still not distributed to the state, so Allagash headbrewer Jason Perkins said it will focus on the closest places they can, which right now is Washington DC. Starting in May though, New York will open up as a market for New Belgium, giving them a bit closer access.

It is the 44th state for New Belgium to distribute in as the company has signed agreements with 14 wholesalers in New York state.

“New York is a big one for us,” said Rich Rush, New Belgium’s Northeast and Canada division sales director, in a prepared statement. “It’s a high-density, fast-paced market, and there are a lot of craft-savvy customers throughout the state. We now have the capacity to make sure we can keep the pipeline full, so the timing is ideal on all counts.”

The move means New York City area consumers will be able to buy New Belgium beers on both sides of the Hudson River, since the company began distribution in New Jersey this month. Connecticut will come online later this year, Simpson said in a release.

This influx of states comes in part because of the new east coast facility that is opening for the Colorado-based brewery.

The Asheville, North Carolina facility will produce 500,000 bbls to go along with one millions in Fort Collins.

Other states not yet in the New Belgium pipeline include Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Oklahoma.


*HUB Photos taken by Tim LaBarge.


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