You won’t see many amber ales on menus at craft beer bars these days, and very few people are clamoring for the latest amber when they head to the liquor store.
But the lighter, malty style has been the backbone of the craft-beer industry – especially in Colorado – since the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when ambers were at the height of their popularity. So it was a somewhat undignified ending for one of the most famous ambers when Fort Collins-founded New Belgium Brewing revealed in January that its flagshipo Fat Tire would not longer look or taste the way it had since hitting the market in 1991 and inspiring a million knock-offs.
Related: 8 Colorado-made amber ales to feed your Fat Tire cravings
As a tribute to the Fat Tire, Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project in Denver released its own hoppy amber ale on Wednesday, pointedly called Re-Tired and featuring a similar bicycle on the label, along with the same colors and design elements of the New Belgium beer.
“I grew up in the craft-era boom, going to CSU,” said Crooked Stave operations director Danny Oberle, who attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins with brewery founder Chad Yakobson. “If someone had a keg of Fat Tire at a college party, that was the good stuff.”
After the New Belgium announcement, several larger local breweries, including Dry Dock, Breckenridge and Left Hand, were quick to point out on social media that their longtime amber ales weren’t going anywhere. Crooked Stave hadn’t made an amber though, so Oberle and the staff began talking about brewing one as a small-batch release.
“We were brainstorming, talking about what is hot and what is not,” he said. When the subject of ambers came up, the sales team at the brewery’s sister company, Crooked Stave Artisans, said they felt like it was something they could successfully sell.
So the brewers went to work, crafting a recipe similar to Fat Tire, but not an exact replica.
“There is a lot of nostalgia,” Oberle said. “Craft beer has taken off, and people are making wild, weird beers … but there are X amount of consumers out there who are used to beer tasting like beer, whether that is a clean lager or an amber ale. People want something simple on tap.”
Crooked Stave made just one 40-barrel batch (the equivalent of around 80 kegs) or Re-Tired, which is on tap in the brewery’s taproom, at 1441 W. 46th Ave., and will hit store shelves soon. But if sales go as well as hoped, the beer could become an annual rotator or even a core brand.
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