The Predicament of Pumpkins and Overpumped Tires

Jim Lundstrom

Remember when Fat Tire from New Belgium Brewing started showing up in local bars a dozen years or so ago (it might have been even a little longer than that – I forget exactly when it arrived, but for good reason because they had been sending me samples long before it was available this side of the Mississippi)?

Fat Tire was one of the first craft West Coast beers to arrive here (not counting Sierra Nevada, which had a very early, if limited,  presence). When it started showing up in tap lineups in local bars, it felt as if we finally had been liberated. The beer Nazis had been overthrown!

But, then, sadly Fat Tire suffered from the curse of ubiquity because, suddenly it was as ubiquitous as Budweiser. And because of that, it quickly became old hat.
Which is really too bad for NBBC and craft beer drinkers, because they are a great and innovative brewery.
(Truthfully, Fat Tire was always my least favorite of the NBBC lineup, just as the wildly popular and equally ubiquitous Two Hearted Ale of Bell’s Brewery quickly made my “been there, done that” list, to the point where if I never have another THA it will be far too soon - in general, I try to avoid drinking beers with fish on their cans because it seems to give the beer inside a certain fishy taint. I don’t even know what kind of beer THA is supposed to be – I can’t get fish piss out of my head). 

And, yes, I felt that way about Fat Tire. Love the name. Love the brewery. Don’t love that particular beer. What kind of beer is Fat Tire, anyway? I could never really pin it down, and my brain needs that.
However, an area grocery store often has a display of specially priced alcohol as soon as you walk in the doors, and on this particular day it was two special release beers from New Belgium Brewing – Fat Tire Belgian White a special release Voodoo Ranger IPA called Atomic Pumpkin, brewed with cinnamon and habaneros, the label says.

I got a sixer of each and, as soon as I opened a bottle, was immediately reminded why I like New Belgium Brewing.

No.1:  The Belgian White is delicious. It’s wheaty, meaty and, I am fairly certain, pretty good for what ails you. But that’s what “they” said about strychnine at one time, so, you know, grain of salt.
I can say this about it for certain:  the Seville orange peel offers a subtle, rich citrus tone to the finish, and certainly the ground coriander adds earthy spiciness. Coriander, as you know, is the seed of the cilantro plant. The very idea of their two separate identities is enticing. What other herb can boast of such diversity?

No. 2:  I know pumpkin beer has its haters. I have long been a fan of pumpkin beers, and this NBBC Pumpkin is the tastiest I have ever had. Subtle pumpkin flavor abides. So good! So subtle! I love this beer. The cinnamon and habanero turn the pumpkin into something more swashbuckling than a gutless pumpkin. I love the way the cinnamon and habanero brazenly remain on the palate long after you have taken a swig of the beer. Incredible presence, with just the faintest waft of pumpkin in it all.

I believe even those who say they do not like pumpkin beers will drink this and fall to their knees in the presence of greatness and begin singing this 17th century New World Pilgrim song:

“We have pumpkin at morning and pumpkin at noon; 
If it was not for pumpkins we should be undone.
Hey down, down, hey down derry down.
If barley be wanting to make into malt 
We must be contented and think it no fault 
For we can make liquor, to sweeten our lips, 
Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips.”

Parsnips! Yum!