Posts Tagged ‘Oberon’

Today’s the day that New Belgium Brewing Co. releases its Fat Tire Amber and six other beers in the VA/DC/MD market. To say that this has been one of the most-hyped beer introductions in recent memory would be a disservice to the efforts put forth by New Belgium and their distribution partners. “Hype” only scratches the surface.

Despite a few bumps along the way (I particularly enjoyed placards distributed throughout Northern Virginia imploring aficionados to visit http://www.newbelbium.com), the release of Fat Tire and friends has been a wonder to behold. And yet …

Whither the NBBC products themselves? I count myself among the puzzled few who just don’t “get” the flagship Fat Tire brew. For years, I’ve had people ask me where they can get this golden elixir that they first had while living out West or skiing at Vail or had smuggled in by a friend. (This reminds me of stories I heard from my dad about Coors Banquet Beer back in the early 1970s.) When, oh when, would this precious brew find its way East?

When I’ve found it available during my travels, I would partake of a pint of Fat Tire just to see if its appeal would finally reveal itself to me. But, if anything, I’ve found this slightly too-sweet, somewhat too-lagery-tasting brew to be less interesting with each subsequent tasting. Yet people continue to tell me that Fat (or as many would say, “Flat”) Tire is the Best. Beer. Ever.

Well, OK, if you think so, then I guess it is for you. Ever the Beermudgeon, I still try not to be a Beer Snob or a Beer Nerd. I’m fascinated to try to understand why many feel Fat Tire is the Holy Grail. Perhaps these are the people who are weaning from Miller Lite, Bud Light Lime and Yeungling. If so, it’s a step forward, I’ll grant you that. But I wouldn’t even place it among the best US craft ambers, such as North Coast Red Seal, New Holland Sundog and Breckenridge Avalanche, to name a few.

Despite all this, there are many NBBC brews I have enjoyed, including their ambitious La Folie sour ale. When trying a sample of their first batch (I believe)at a Smithsonian Associates tasting at DC’s RFD in 2002, I told New Belgium’s husband/wife brewing team that it would be a great component of a unique vinaigrette dressing to rather cold stares. I meant it as a compliment, though I doubt it was received as such.

Anyway, here we are nearly a decade later. Fat Tire and friends have arrived in the DC area, while I am sitting on the beach of an inland Michigan lake sipping a Bell’s Oberon, to be followed by a Founders Centennial IPA, a Two Hearted Ale or a North Peak Diabolical IPA.

Am I missing anything?

“My Oberon! What visions have I seen!”
— Shakespeare, “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” Act IV, Scene 1

Summer in a bottle!

In my last major posting, I was, perhaps, a bit too Beermudgeonly in my comments toward Old Dominion Brewing Co. My intent with this blog is not just to talk negatively about things, but to also accentuate the positive (to steal a phrase). And what more positive can we discuss than the Beer of Summer, Bell’s Oberon?

Oberon and I go back … back … back … (sorry, Chris Berman),  to when it wasn’t even called Oberon. What’s that, you say? That’s right, originally the quintessential American wheat ale was known as “Solsun” back in the early 1990s, until the makers of “Sol,” the Mexican cervesa, sued for copyright infringement and, rather than waste a lot of money fighting the battle, Bell’s changed the name. (Geez, what am I, a history teacher or something?) Anywho, that’s how we got Oberon, named after the king of the fairies in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream.

So, what about the beer? It’s traditionally released the last week of March by the Kalamazoo (O.K., Comstock), Mich., brewery and generally is available until mid-September, although it is available year-round in Florida. As I said before, I find it to be the quintessential American wheat beer — not a Belgian wit, not a German hefeweizen, but an entirely American creation. Until recently when other breweries have tried to duplicate or steal some of Oberon‘s success (I’m talking to you, Leinenkugel‘s Sunset Wheat), perhaps its only peer was Widmer’s ironically named Hefeweizen.

Oberon is an unfiltered wheat beer, meaning that when poured, you get a somewhat cloudy, golden brew in your glass that has a citrusy aroma and a rich-yet-light flavor that says “summer.” (Sorry, don’t know how else to describe it. It you are looking for flowery descriptors such as those you would find in Wine Advocate, you’ve come to the wrong place.) One serving suggestion that I do have: before you pour the last inch of the bottle into your glass, swirl it around to release the wheat and yeast sediment that have settled at the bottle of the bottle — the schmegees, as I like to call them — and pour them into the glass for the proper cloudiness. As Larry Bell himself was once quoted, “If God had meant us to drink filtered beer, he wouldn’t have given us livers.” (Or something like that.) Finally, though the purists may scoff, I’m not averse to adding a wedge of lemon or orange to the brew, especially on a very hot summer day.

The Wall of Oberon

This year’s Oberon, sampled immediately after it was off-loaded the delivery truck, is the same as it ever was — bright, cheery and summery. Which brings up the final issue I will address: Does Oberon vary from year to year? Some beer snobs … I mean geeks … I mean aficionados, claim they can tell differences from year to year. But according to the only source I trust on the subject, Mr. Larry Bell, the Oberon recipe is the same today as it always has been. The only possible variation could come from nuances in the different batches of wheat or hops used in the brewing process (but when I suggested even that to Larry, all I got was an eye roll). If you want to claim your palate is so finely tuned that you can tell the differences in different wheat crops, fine, go ahead. You’re a better person than I, I guess.  Me, I’ll just sit back, crack another Oberon and ENJOY.

Oberon Cometh!

Posted: March 30, 2010 in Stuff about beer
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Just a quick note to say that Bell’s Oberon Ale, which I personally consider to be summertime in a bottle, is being released this week and will hit the shelves of my store, Rick’s Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria, on Wednesday.

Oberon Minikeg Art

Bell's Oberon Ale: Summertime in a bottle

We’ll be holding a special tasting of Oberon as soon as it arrives, so come on by a have a sample and pick up your first six-pack of the season!