Beer Review 0125: New Belgium Shift Pale Lager

If you haven’t heard the news yet, let me break it to you: New Belgium Brewing has chosen the city of Asheville, North Carolina to build an East Coast operation. You may remember a few weeks ago when Sierra Nevada made the exact same announcement; they too selected Asheville to build a second brewery.

As a North Carolinian who loves beer, I am very proud of my state. There’s definitely something going on here that’s real, right, and true for craft brew.

New Belgium currently brews out of Fort Collins, Colorado; I have reviewed several of their beers on this website, so I feel like I have explained the company history thoroughly enough to hit the high spots this time. Founded in 1991, New Belgium awards employees who have been with the company for one year an ownership stake. How cool is that? They were also the first brewery to be totally powered by wind.

Shift is a beer so new that it just came out this week — the concept is simple: this one is meant to be shared at the end of your shift with your fellow co-workers, assuming you get along with them. If not, then kick back with one at home. This one comes in an interesting format — a can — and a sixteen ounce can, at that. The packaging is somewhat reminiscent of an energy drink…

Since this one is a lager, it is a lighter beer, and only comes in at 5% ABV (alcohol by volume). New Belgium says this is “lightly hopped,” but there are four types of hops found in Shift: Target, Nelson Sauvin, Liberty, and Cascade.

The pour yielded a beer with an average size, frothy head that was of decent lasting quality. The beer was deeply golden in color and clear of particles or sediment. Carbonation bubbles streamed to the top of the glass with great regularity. Shift left excellent lacing, coating the glass with a thick, pillowy foam. This is one good looking lager!

On the aromatics, everything seemed light, which is what they were going for. There’s some grassy hops up front, which hint at grapefruit and suggest maybe a touch of orange; the grain bill is very grain-like, bready and sweet. Then there’s a general earthiness to the scent which reminded me very much of New Belgium’s Spring seasonal Dig, which I reviewed a couple of months ago.

The taste of the beer kicks off with a little earthy/grassy hop up front, before turning grainy and having the finish of a classic lager with quality ingredients. We’re not talking Bud, Miller, or Coors here, folks. This one has some flavor, and is actually sweet in the middle of the taste but finishes on a nice and pleasant bitter note, making you want yet another sip. The mouthfeel was light and thin.

Shift is just a nice beer, and aptly named. My only complaint here would be that I wish this came in six packs instead of four packs. If you want a good after work beer, or something you could session on a work night, or need a beer to satisfy the Bud/Miller/Coors folks without having to buy that crap, this is the ticket.

This isn’t “fizzy yellow lager,” but it is craft lager done right.

New Belgium Shift Pale Lager, 86 points. Price: $8.99 US for a four pack.

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