Beer of the Week: New Belgium 1554

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John Linn
Get old school... about 450 years old.
Unrepentant beer drinkers, rejoice! Each week, Clean Plate Charlie will select one craft or import beer and give you the lowdown on it: How does it taste? What should you drink it with? Where can you find it? But mostly, it's all about the love of the brew. If you have a beer you'd like featured in Beer of the Week, let us know via a comment.

I spent last week in Colorado, the land of the microbrew. Just about everywhere you go there, you can find beer good enough to turn people that don't typically like beer into fans. Case in point: Danielle's cousin Wendy. Wendy, like all the Flemings, loves her drink. But she's not into beer. Something about the sourness of Coors or Bud, she told me, just turned her off the stuff.

That is, until she tried porter for the first time at Kannah Creek Brewery in Grand Junction, Colorado. The dark, coffee-like "Pegasus Porter" seemed to resonate with her more than a watery lager ever did. She spent the rest of the trip asking me to introduce her to more dark beers. "Is this one like the Pigass?" she'd joke as she took a sip of a new brew. It didn't take long before she found another beer she loved: New Belgium's 1554.

We sampled New Belgium's old-style dark ale after a day of skiing in Snowmass, a gorgeous ski village near Aspen. The rich but drinkable brew seemed to cure the pains aching muscles and sub-zero weather (it hit negative three at one point that day). With Wendy's help, we killed two pints in what seemed like 20 minutes.

For a dark beer, 1554 has surprising drinkability. Even inexperienced beer drinkers who would typical shy away from something like a Guinness will enjoy it. The body is fairly light and the taste is crisp, yet somewhat chocolaty. Thanks to the addition of lager-style yeast (as opposed to ale yeast, which gets busier in higher temperatures), the sour, malty notes are minimal. What is present is sweet and rich: raisins, coffee, ripe fruit. 1554 also has a fairly low alcohol content of 5.5%, making it a slightly strong but suitable session beer.

The only bummer about 1554? It's a little hard to find in Florida currently unavailable in Florida. While New Belgium is one of the country's largest microbreweries, its distributed only as far south as Georgia.

UPDATE: Order this beer online at a number of sources, including Beergeek.biz.

If you find some, give it to someone who doesn't ordinarilly like dark beer. They just might thank you for it.
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