Conceived on a bike ride through Belgium, New Belgium Brewing (NBB) was born in a Fort Collins, Colorado, basement in 1991. Conventional wisdom at the time suggested that Americans would never embrace a brewery focusing on Belgian-inspired beers. Twenty years later and 350 employees strong, NBB has proven themselves and their product, which is distributed in 26 states, with plans to add Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. in 2011.
A Beer for Twenty Years
For their 20th anniversary, NBB has released Super Cru, in which they have taken their classic Fat Tire Amber Ale and doubled the malt and hops, added crisp Asian pears and Siason yeast. Super Cru, which is part of New Belgium’s Lips of Faith series, comes in at 10% ABV and is available in 22 oz bottles and on draft.
Super Cru Cheese Pairings
Lauren Salazar, sensory specialist and barrel blender at NBB, suggests two very different cheese parings to try with Super Cru. First, is a cave-aged cheddar from Carr Valley Cheese Co. in La Velle, Wisconsin. At NewBelgium.com, Salazar explains that this cheese is aged 6 – 9 months in an open cave, which gives it a special sharpness that compliments the notes presented by the French Saison yeast used in Super Cru.
Second, she suggests a brie or camembert served with candied pecans, to play with the malt notes (nutty and caramel) present in the beer. The brie should be gently warmed to just soft (not melted) then served with a side of quince or other fruit paste. Or, you could opt to serve with a cut ripe Asian (or regular) pear on the side. This pairing will bring out the big smooth, creamy texture and body of the beer.
Loose Lips Program Leads to Amazing Creations
The Belgian tradition of creativity lives on strong at NBB, this is especially seen through their Loose Lips program. Loose Lips is a quarterly employee tasting challenge that has resulted in some pretty amazing beers. Four times a year, NBB’s employees are invited to sample a glass which contains a blend of three NBB beers. Whoever can identify which three beers, and come closest to the correct percentage of each gets to brew any beer they can imagine; with the brewhouse and cellaring teams lending the technical support to keep things on track.
Examples include Jonny’s Voodoo Ale, a mind-tingling Trippel made with the South American yerba mate plant; and Kevin’s Ale, a strong Blonde Ale spiced with ginger and grains of paradise that weighs in at 8.3% ABV.
These beers are usually served exclusively in the NBB Taproom, the Liquid Center, and occasionally a few local-area accounts. A handful of the Loose Lips beers graduate into the Lips of Faith series and have potential for national distribution. A few you may have seen include:
- Eric’s Ale – Having been a major part of the team that created La Folie, Eric Salazar decided to play around with oak barrels. The result is a very drinkable sour beer hybrid with subtle peach tones and a warm, spicy finish.
- Biere de Mars - Brewmaster Peter Boukaert’s Biere de Mars pays tribute to Belgian architect Victor Horta, and typifies this category with a complex malt bill of oats, wheat, barley, lemon verbena, lemon peel and Brettanomyces.
- Transatlantique Kriek – starts its odyssey in Belgium where Frank Boon brews a true Lambique with cherries and then we blend with a big-bodied golden ale here at New Belgium for a beer that is literally brewed on two continents.
It’s projects like these and NBB’s active take on the community of craft beer that makes it an exciting time to be brewing and enjoying craft beer in the U.S.