You may have seen and heard that New Belgium has changed everything about their iconic Fat Tire beer. I didn’t understand why when I read the press release and after tasting this I’m even more confused.
Fat Tire was the flagship beer for New Belgium since they started in 1991. The origin story is when the co-founder was cycling through Europe according to their website “The flavor profiles he discovered on that ride sparked the recipe for a beer he would begin to brew in his Colorado basement.” The profile for Fat Tire originated in 1930’s Belgium where breweries made easy drinking ales with their signature Belgian yeast for soldiers from England. I’m sorry to say that the New Fat Tire has none of this.
Sales of Fat Tire have been trending downward for a while now as palates have changed towards more hop forward beers. Look no farther than New Belgium’s portfolio and you’ll see many different varieties of their Voodoo Ranger IPA that has been paying the bills for them since 2009 or so. Still, Fat Tire was the 16th best selling craft brand last year and if it was a brewery in itself, Fat Tire would be the 18th largest in the United States.
This is why I don’t get the whole change. Even with declining sales, Fat Tire is still an iconic beer and brand and some minor tweaks in advertising would help. It’s not like the company is dependent on Fat Tire anymore either. Put out a variant of Voodoo Ranger and they’ll be fine.
The new packaging IMO is horrible and nondescript. This looks like something was purchased on the cheap from Fivrr. It doesn’t stand out in a crowded aisle of beer, the fonts are clunky and uneven. Why they felt the need to have High Quality on the can is unnecessary. Shouldn’t all of their beer be this? The Alternatively Powered and Low Impact part is nice, but honestly does that sway anyone when making a beer purchase? The majority of beer drinkers wouldn’t care if they powered the brewery with coal or an old diesel engine as long as the beer is good.
The press release touting the new Fat Tire is full of corporate nonsense. This all came from people who probably spend way too much time on conference calls and staff meetings. They say “Longtime Fat Tire drinkers will clearly recognize the original Fat Tire flavor when tasting the new recipe” and “So far, many are telling us they prefer the crisper, brighter version and feel excited for the change.” Who exactly are these “many” people you are referring to? No one ever feels excited for the change in a product they love. FFS, get out of your work cubes and get out in the world. No one buys this corporate advertising talk one bit.
Now about the beer itself. I tried this yesterday and to be fair, if you gave me this in a glass and I didn’t know what it was, I would be OK with it. It’s non-offensive and decent. Not a bad beer at all! However, there is nothing about the New Fat Tire that will make me buy this again. I’m sure there will be a initial surge in sales because Fat Tire is new, but can’t see many repeat purchases here. It is nondescript in every way possible, why spend $9.99 a six-pack for this when you can get a 12 pack of a nondescript macro for the same price? I can go into any gas station in Chicago and get a better tasting beer for the same price so why buy Fat Tire?
When I heard the news about this, 2 thoughts came to mind right away. New Coke and the Death Of Superman. In 1985, Coke was losing ground to Pepsi who marketed themselves as the choice for a new generation. Coke was seen as old and stodgy compared to Pepsi. There were probably staff meetings involved in Atlanta and Coke changed it’s iconic formula to be sweeter tasting which they felt consumers wanted. In 1992, sales of Superman comic books were sluggish compared to Batman which had movies out and edgier Marvel comics. DC decided to kill off Superman. How do you kill Superman? In both cases, the press coverage was crazy, both stories were at the top of TV news and newspapers. More people were talking about Coke and Superman than ever before. Most consumers weren’t happy though. A few months later, the old Coke came back called Coca-Cola Classic and after a year long story, Kal-El was back flying over Metropolis. My gut feeling is that in the Summer, New Belgium will say they were wrong and bring back Fat Tire and sales will get a huge bump from all of this.
Unless that was the plan all along for Fat Tire to get more sales and folks talking about it, this whole rebrand and the folks behind it should be forced to drink this and this only. I don’t want to sound like I’m bashing New Belgium either, they have always made good award winning beers that I enjoy and their tour in Ft Collins was one of the best I’ve been on, it’s this debacle that is leaving a nondescript taste in my mouth.
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