Beer Review 0276: New Belgium Snow Day Black Ale

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It’s almost winter time, and currently up on the seasonal rotation from New Belgium Brewing (Fort Collins, Colorado) is Snow Day, a Black Ale that is brewed to showcase subtle chocolate and caramel flavors, but also deliver a punch of hops.

Brewed with a relatively new malt called Midnight Wheat, New Belgium hops this ale with Styrian Goldings, Centennial, and Cascade. It’s not quite a Black IPA; this brew comes in at 6.2% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 55 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

New Belgium Brewing fired up in 1991, after Jeff Lebesch biked through Europe on a quest for good beer. He left the country inspired, wanting to brew his own beer. So he did. Today, New Belgium is one of the largest craft breweries, and they have quite a conscience, too: Theirs is the first brewery to be powered by wind, and once an employee has been with the company for one year, they are awarded an ownership stake. Solid principles. Mr. Lebesch’s wife, Kim, is the CEO.

Earlier this year, the company announced plans to add a second facility across the country in Asheville, North Carolina. As a North Carolinian, I am proud of the beer roots my state currently seems to be springing at a rapid pace. One day very soon, I’ll call this a local beer — and that’s great, because New Belgium make some great drinks. Search for some of their other brews on this website, especially their Lips of Faith series.

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The pour delivered a really beautiful beer, topped with a large, soapy head that was lasting. The beer was deep ruby-brown in color, and when held to the light, had nice purple highlights. In the light, this beer is transparent, but without a bright bulb, you probably can’t see through this. Know that it is clear and free of particles and sediment. Lacing was more than excellent from the moment the head started to diminish, leaving thin but solid sheets all the way down my glass.

On the nose, an immediate chord of balance is hit with equally matching hops and malt — a nice blend of caramel, chocolate, grapefruit and pine create a very pungent brew that reminded my nose of a nice perfume. There’s background hits of coffee and a general roast. The grapefruit in particular is really juicy and ripe, while the chocolate is dry and verges on the dark bakers variety. Snow Day smells great.

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Tasting, this beer is somewhat muddled at first, with notes of caramel and grapefruit but with a thick taste not supported by it’s thin-to-medium texture. But the beer opens up in the middle, releasing a generally roasted malt and hop astringency. Flavors of dark pine, and a dry, dusty chocolate wash over, leading to a finish of hearty roast coffee and dark chocolate that ride out on a moderate hop bitterness. This is a medium-bodied beer, foamy while in the mouth and drying.

New Belgium have another hit on their hands with Snow Day. It’s a great seasonal; in the cold months, breweries tend to release Stouts or Winter Warmers. This is a nice change of pace, and honestly, I wish this were year-round, because I could see myself enjoying it any time. Snow Day is a tasty, well-balanced beer that has a little heft.

New Belgium Snow Day Black Ale, 93 points. Price: $8.99 US for a six pack.

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