Thursday, January 8, 2009

TBG Drinks: 2° Below Ale

Brewed By: New Belgium Brewing
Brewed In: Fort Collins, Colorado
Type: Extra Special/Strong Bitter (Pale Ale)
ABV: 6.6%

What They Say: "A bright, warming blast of Sterling and Liberty hops along with tawny roasted malts. By pushing our 2° Below into a final, nearly freezing state, its ample structure develops a brilliant clarity. Dry-hopping during fermentation creates a bright, hoppy palate and a cheery warm afterglow."

Website: Ummm…let's go with "uncluttered" – although I wouldn't be opposed to "amateurish". (Full disclosure: I don't know t'ish about web design.) The "Beer" link is a kick as it leads to a complete listing of New Belgium's product lines accompanied by recommended food pairings. Some of the suggestions are so hilariously pretentious ("Coca-Cola braised pork shoulder"?) that I actually wanna try 'em. As the story goes, New Belgium was "born on a bike" so there are several bike-themed events promoted here. And, you can't have a beer site without an infrequently updated blog, a mediocre souvenir page and a cooler-than-you tone throughout.

Why I Picked It: New Belgium's Fat Tire is far and away my favorite casual beer of choice, so I'm pretty much open to sampling anything they opt to bottle.


Presentation (4): The label on Fat Tire's bottles is easily recognizable and New Belgium wisely keeps the brand identification for 2° Below similar in style. My eye was drawn to the logo, immediately – thinking it was actually Fat Tire – before noticing the clever depiction of frost, icicles and a plunging thermostat.

Originality (1): I'm still a neophyte in the field of beer snobbery, but I'm fairly certain that seasonal winter-warmer beers are a common occurrence on store shelves this time of year. Not much of a break from the norm in the New Belgium formula, either, but kudos for the effort to expand my favorite brand.

Body (7): In an attempt to keep from typing "just like Fat Tire" all the way through this review, I'll instead say that it bears more than a passing resemblance to New Belgium's signature brand. Smooth without really being watery, what it might lack in mouthfeel, it makes up for with an ability to get down my gullet in good time.

Taste (7): Malty with a moderate level of hoppiness that loiters on the tongue. I finished off a six-pack over the course of a few days and didn't think I cared for it. I bought another six-pack a week later and better appreciated the toasted spiciness and relatively dry finish. Somewhat complex for commercialized, mass produced product.

Efficiency (8): I'm mostly hiding behind my waistline when I say that I could only drink two 12-ouncers in a single sitting. The reality is that after the first half-bottle, the mouth is familiarized with the flavor and the 6.6% ABV isn't enough to do any superficial damage over the course of an evening. Not a poundable brew in the truest sense of the made-up word, but it's right at the line.

Versatility (7): I wouldn't call it a straight-up "social beer" due to the finish and lingering bitterness. I'd recommend it most for those pretentious "grown-up parties" that are common amongst newlyweds in their late 20s who are fighting their own insecurities and guilt about their unfettered (and unprotected) youth by hosting a wine n' cheese affair in an ineffective attempt to renounce the past decade.

Grade: 34 (Good Beer)

The above format has been lifted with permission from That Beer Snob Guy.

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