Beer Review 0297: New Belgium Frambozen Raspberry Brown Ale

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Each year around the holiday season, New Belgium releases a special beer called Frambozen, a raspberry Brown Ale that is brewed using pure juice from freshly picked Pacific Northwest raspberries.

Flemish for “raspberry,” Frambozen is New Belgium’s celebration of the fruit found in Belgian Framboise ales.

New Belgium Brewing began production in 1991 after Jeff Lebesch biked through Europe and was inspired by all of the good beer over there. Upon returning, he started New Belgium in Fort Collins, Colorado; they became the first brewery to be powered by wind, showing they have an environmental conscience — and they offer ownership stake to anyone that has been employed by the brewery for one year.

Jeff’s wife, Kim Jordan, is New Belgium’s CEO. She was the company’s first bottler, sales rep, distributor, marketer, and financial planner. Whew!

Frambozen comes in at 6.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 15 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). This beer arrives to bottle shops in six-packs and is somewhat limited — my bottle shop of choice only got three cases of this, which is on the scarce side for New Belgium.

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The pour produced an absolutely beautiful beer; the head was large, sudsy and frothy in texture, and lasted atop a deep amber beer that had plenty of ruby red highlights thanks to the ample dosage of raspberry. The body was clear and free of particles and sediment, while the lacing nicely scuffed up my glass with thick, solid sheets as I sampled. Very nice.

Aromatics were fairly one dimensional and highly pronounced: raspberry, raspberry, and, oh yeah: RASPBERRY. Really fresh and in your face, tons of the berry. There’s a light suggestion of malt backbone; a delicate caramel and perhaps some brown sugar. To be mostly one-note, this is pretty good, and different, in a pleasing way.

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The taste mirrors the scent — tart raspberry up front, with just a dash of complex, sweet malt. Light caramel, and a hint of chocolate are present. The tartness isn’t lip-puckering or sour, but it grabs your attention. That aspect turns sweet in the middle of the taste, culminating to a finish of, yes…raspberry that all the while maintains a tart bite, which reminded me much of an under-ripened fruit drizzled with milk chocolate. Frambozen was light-bodied and had a medium mouthfeel, foamy and slightly drying because of the sweetness.

Overall, this is a very nice beer, but a safe one. But pleasant, enjoyable beers have their place in the spectrum, too; especially around the holidays when you have people in your house that might not appreciate craft beer in the way you do, nor understand its potential complexities. I guarantee if you give this to your resident fruity, sweet wine lover, you’ll have a smash hit on your hands. And traditional holiday food? A pairing should be made! The only negative is the limited release and the price point, in my opinion.

New Belgium Frambozen Raspberry Brown Ale, 91 points. $11.49 US for a six pack.

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