For some reason, pseudo beer drinkers everywhere have become enamored with a certain amber ale that goes by the name Fat Tire. As a beertender, I couldn't go one night without being on the receiving end of some nonsensical harangue about how Fat Tire is the best beer ever made and every bar in the world should have it on tap. Folks, I'm here to tell you, and I might catch a fair amount of sass for this, Fat Tire is the Schlitz Malt Liquor of the New Belgium product line.
Before I begin, I'd like to point out that the company responsible for brewing Fat Tire demonstrates admirably sound environmental practices and crafts outstanding beer masterpieces like Le Terroir, La Folie, and Abbey Grand Cru. Let me make this perfectly clear; I'm not dissing on New Belgium Brewery. This diss is directed specifically toward Fat Tire Amber Ale. It is, perhaps, the least good beer produced by New Belgium, yet it's wildly fashionable even in areas where it isn't available. I am convinced the popularity of this foul brew is purely a result of the want what we cannot have phenomenon coupled with euphoric delusions brought on by travel situations.
Here's the deal. Fat Tire is only available in 21 states. For the longest time, anything east of the Mississippi River was out of distribution range. When east-coasters went out to the mountain states on business or vacation, Fat Tire would appear before them as the beacon of sophisticated beer drinking. The newness of it and the sheer need for beer made it taste fantastic. Of course, any beer tastes fantastic after you've spent a full day skiing or sitting at a conference table. After being behind the wheel of a car or stuffed into an economy plane seat, any liquid is refreshing.
Ladies and gentleman, I submit that environmental factors play into the enjoyment of Fat Tire. Take all that away and you're left with a puny, lifeless amber ale. Don't get me wrong; I would choose Fat Tire over many of the other beers produced in Fort Collins, Colorado - Busch, Michelob, Natural. But if I was asked to fill my empty glass with one brew from New Belgium's offerings, Fat Tire is the last beer I'd pick.
Yet, disagreeable flavor and inflated reputation are not the factors ultimately responsible for bars in Florida not carrying Fat Tire. The real reason is that New Belgium Brewery hasn't established distribution in this area. However, progress is being made. Beginning March 4th, Fat Tire fanatics in North Carolina can have their fill — and mine.
New Belgium's 1554 Enlightened Black Ale, a Brussels style dark ale, and Mothership Wit, an organic wheat beer will accompany Fat Tire on the journey into new markets. Both of these lesser known brews are far more impressive, though it's likely they'll remain in Fat Tire's shadow both in promotional budgets and in the minds of macro beer drinkers. New Belgium's move toward the east coast means Fat Tire is headed for the sunshine state, probably sooner than later. So, hooray. It's coming. But, please, don't get too excited. Not over something like Fat Tire.
(Editor's note: Anyone remember the plot to Smokey and the Bandit? Yep, at one point Coors was the holy grail for beer drinkers east of the Mississippi.)