For more than three decades, New Belgium Brewery Company's Fat Tire has been one of the most recognizable and dependable beers of the craft brewery movement. When the easy-drinking amber ale debuted in 1991, the craft brewery scene was in its infancy, and the industry — along with the world at large — has changed a lot since then.
Now, however, Fat Tire is changing with it.
On January 18th, New Belgium is officially debuting a brand-new Fat Tire. Not only does the iconic beer receive a cosmetic makeover with new branding and artwork for its bottles, but the beer itself is now being brewed with a whole new recipe. The brewery describes the reimagined amber ale as "easy drinking, with a medium body, crisp finish, and deep gold color" with a flavor profile of "subtle caramel and floral aromas and light bitterness."
"Longtime Fat Tire drinkers will clearly recognize the original Fat Tire flavor when tasting the new recipe," recipe developer and New Belgium Brewmaster Christian Holbrook said in a statement. "So far, many are telling us they prefer the crisper, brighter version and feel excited for the change."
Whether longtime Fat Tire adherents ultimately take to the reformulation or not remains to be seen (ideally, New Belgium would like to avoid a New Coke situation), but the question remains: why make the change to begin with? It's not like Fat Tire was struggling. According to the brand itself, the beer was the 16th best-selling craft brand in the U.S. last year; if it were a standalone brewery, Fat Tire would rank as the nation's 18th largest.
Well, Fat Tire has always promoted climate advocacy — in 2020, it became the nation's first carbon-neutral beer — and the new Fat Tire is more dedicated to this mission than ever before. Take a look at the beer's Instagram page and you'll see that all posts prior to the rebranding have been scrubbed, and most new posts focus on sustainability and climate action. Fat Tire is on a mission to save the planet, and to get the word out, the beer has grabbed headlines by changing its iconic recipe.
"We are embarking on a wholesale reimagining of our recipe and the iconic Fat Tire brand to inspire the next generation around better beer and a better planet," Adam Fetcher, Sr. Director of Comms, Digital & Public Engagement at New Belgium & Bell's Brewery, told me in an email. "Craft beer has come a long way since we helped put it on the map, and the climate crisis — which threatens the very beer we make — continues to get worse every year.
Now is the time to enlist every single person in the fight against climate change, and we want to play our part in mobilizing beer drinkers. So we’re taking a big step forward with Fat Tire, in two ways: 1) Making a crisper, brighter, and even better Fat Tire that will enable us to reach a broader audience of beer drinkers and climate advocates, and 2) Debuting a bold new look to highlight our deep and ongoing investments in climate solutions, to help inspire the next generation of beer drinkers to join us."
Naturally, causing such a big change to a longstanding beloved product carries risks, such as alienating or angering that product's core market. Fetcher told me he's aware of these risks, but ultimately has faith in Fat Tire's new recipe. "We know a change like this will be hard for longtime fans, however, we encourage them to try the new recipe," Fetcher said. "We strongly believe our new recipe and the new brand will help Fat Tire gain renewed momentum, create a greater positive impact for our planet and connect with the next generation — just as we’ve inspired an entire generation of craft beer fans up until now."
One of our senior editors (and beer lovers) Ryan Brower, who was a fan of the original Fat Tire, has already had a chance to try the reimagined version. Here's exactly what he thinks of the new recipe:
"I don’t hate it. It’s kind of a combo between a blonde ale and a lager that hits pretty crisp and has way more of a hop profile than the original Fat Tire. Off the bat, savvy drinkers will recognize hints of the OG malt bill and yeast, but this is a snappy drinker that lends itself to many different occasions than the original — think ball games, warm weather BBQs and the like. Amber ales have not been a style beer drinkers have been seeking out for years (myself included, even though I love a good one, the only one I’ve sought out in recent years has been Troeg’s Nugget Nectar). And while I am saddened by an OG craft recipe changing, I do think this is a valiant effort and something that I might be more inclined to purchase for easy-drinking occasions. I just wish it had been an addition to the Fat Tire family and not a total overhaul, as we’ve now got to pour one out for a true American craft beer OG."
If you're looking to try the new Fat Tire for yourself, grab a sixer or 12-pack from Drizly.