New Belgium Fat Tire Calories
Beer snobs have long moved on to more daring brews, but these gentle amber titans continue to enjoy broad popular support. In an era obsessed with extravagant bitterness and gonzo ingredients—when the shortest path to critical acclaim is paved with gratuitous hops and grapefruit peels—America’s favorite amber lager (Sam Adams) and amber ale (Fat Tire) deserve better than red-headed step-beer status.
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A quick Beer 101 lesson: The distinction between an amber lager and an amber ale lies in the production process and strain of yeast employed. Lager yeast is bottom-fermenting, and lager beers are stored (lagered in German) in stainless-steel tanks for a few weeks before bottling. Ales use top-fermenting yeast and move from brew kettle to bottle a bit faster.
This is a big deal from the brewer’s perspective, but to the average drinker, the differences aren’t totally apparent. There are bright, hoppy lagers and fizzy, yellow ales, and vice versa; as broad categories, the distinction is much more technical than it is flavorful.
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Boston Lager and Fat Tire are both deep copper in color and lean toward the sweet and mild ends of the modern flavor spectrum. Both are better than the snobs care to admit.
Now let’s crown a champ.
Boston Lager: Amber lagers, also called Vienna or red lagers, were largely ignored outside of Mexico until Samuel Adams’s founder, Jim Koch, began tinkering with an old family recipe in his Boston kitchen in the early 1980s.
Fat Tire: Amber (aka red) ales were held in slightly higher esteem when New Belgium’s Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan launched Fat Tire nearly a decade later, but the smooth newcomer from Fort Collins, Colorado, was still novel when it hit shelves in 1991.
Boston Lager: Per its label and middle-school history class, Samuel Adams was a brewer and a patriot. Boston Lager is a lager made in … Cincinnati, mostly, these days.
Fat Tire: An ode to a cofounder’s beer-biking trip through Europe, which inspired him to make American brews in the Belgian style.
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Boston Lager: 4.9 percent alcohol by volume (ABV)
Fat Tire: 5.2 percent ABV
Score on RateBeer.com, the Trusty Beer Consumer Review Website
Boston Lager: 55/100 (96, style-adjusted)
Fat Tire: 43 (53, style-adjusted)
Boston Lager: Toasted bread and caramel, with an earthy, grassy edge from the noble Hallertau and Tettnang hops.
Fat Tire: Deep, deep caramel, along with biscuit, green grapes, orange peel, and honey.
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Food Pairing Suggestion That Is Seemingly Required in Every Beer Review, So Let’s Just Make Something Up
Boston Lager: An upper-middle-class hot dog in a whole-wheat bun onto which you’ve squeezed a bit more spicy brown mustard than strictly necessary. It’s a good dog—hell, it’s a great dog—but if you’re going to go that heavy on the mustard, maybe just admit that you’re in it as much for the condiments as for the meat and save a buck next time.
Fat Tire: Slow-cooked ribs from your buddy’s third crack at his new smoker. They’re a little heavy on the spice rub, because that’s what happens when a guy first gets into spice rubs. But they’re damn fine ribs all the same.
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If Each Beer Were A Game of Thrones Character
Boston Lager: A lava-breathing tiger-dragon who lays waste to an entire village to avenge his brother-father’s honor after someone called him chubby on Instagram.
Fat Tire: The naked wizard riding the tiger-dragon.
Actual Blind Taste Test Verdict
Fat Tire in a close one. Boston Lager is an excellent interpretation of the Vienna lager style, but Fat Tire beats it out with great execution of a more ambitious goal.