Posted by: Michael | 12 December 2012

Brew Review #12: New Belgium 1554

Beer: 1554

Brewer: New Belgium,Fort Collins, CO

Style: Black Ale*

ABV: 5.6%

Last week I stopped by one of South Bend’s Belmont Beverage locations in search of New Belgium Snow Day (I was successful and then some). While there I noticed they had six packs of the New Belgium’s 1554; seeing as I had found Snow Day and the Winter Folly sampler, the wallet wasn’t generous enough for another six. But I did find a single of 1554, which I promptly decided to buy. New Belgium writes that “in 1997, a Fort Collins flood destroyed the original recipe,” resulting in a trip to Belgium where their researchers “retrieve[d] this unique style lost to the ages…a highly quaffable dark beer with a moderate body and mouthfeel.” Let’s see just how quaffable this ale is. I’ll give it some careful tasting and then indulge in a few quaffs to see if this is something I’d enjoy drinking mindlessly with friends. I’m back in the palatial Brew Review laboratory so I can offer photos this time. First, the bottle and the glass I’ll be drinking out of. I’m using a Westmalle Trappist goblet, as it seems to be closest to what New Belgium recommends. I’ve also got to say that I just love New Belgium’s bottles – I don’t know why, but the shape of them is great.

Westmalle goblet

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Appearance: 1/2 inch head on pour. Reddish coffee color. Slight head later; very little lacing.


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Nose: Fruity –  I recently had Frambozen for the first time, so some sort of sweet berry like raspberries seems to be sneaking around there. Undercurrent of roastedness, not prominent – very subtle. For how sweet it is, it’s very clean.

Flavor: The “roastedness” on the nose really comes out. The berries / fruit taste almost entirely disappears until the aftertaste, when a grape flavor very quickly rears its head and then disappears again when the beer is cold. As it warms up, though, those grapes really come out in a pleasant way – the roasted flavors back it up, making it rich.  With more time, as the beer gets warmer, those fruity flavors fade away, leaving you with a slightest roasted blandness. Letting it sit for a while and warm up brings that nutiness back to the fore.

Mouthfeel: This is very smooth. It’s a little watery for my taste, but I can see it being a non-issue for many (and indeed it isn’t a huge problem for me.)

Overall, this isn’t a bad beer. I wouldn’t consider it New Belgium’s finest offering, but its fruity character would make it accessible to those who may not particularly enjoy black ales all the time. I’d be interested to see what the flavor profile tastes like if drinking it out of the bottle instead of a glass – I can’t decide if I think the fruit or the roasted notes would take prominence.  In the final assessment I’d say this is a fine beer to drink if it’s on special, but I probably wouldn’t shell out $6-$7 for it.

For a better breakdown of the individual components of this beer – for those of you looking for a numerical score, that is – check out my review on Pintley. They don’t allow links back to their site, but I can be found under the username maskaggs.

Don’t forget – alcohol is meant to be enjoyed, but it can hurt you and those around you. Drink responsibly – buzzed driving is drunk driving, too. Enjoy your fine brews in moderation, and don’t be afraid to know when it’s time to stop or call for a driver. There’s no shame in handing your keys to someone else. As they say over at Beer Advocate – Respect Beer!

*Links to Category 16E, Belgian Specialty Ale, of the BJCP.

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