You know, I really do like New Belgium as a brewery. Although they’re picked on a bit by snobbier beer geeks, I think they make a lot of solid, basic offerings that are often good values for where they’re priced. I’m not talking about Lips of Faith series beers. I’m talking about year-rounders and their constantly rotating seasonals, which seem to be replaced by new ones on a yearly basis. It’s a little confusing.

Because they seem to be a good value, I find myself buying New Belgium beer on a fairly regular basis in Central Illinois. I’m just a sucker for getting a good deal–when I go to my local brew store, the NB offerings are there on the shelf for $7.99 per six pack, even for things like the Abbey Ale or Tripel. Compare that to $11.99 for everything from Bells for example, and the choice is easy. I may find their beers to be of “pretty comparable” quality, but there’s very little that could make me buy a similar six-pack for 12 bucks when I could get it for eight.

And so, my willingness to drop money on New Belgium means that I end up trying most of the seasonal releases. The most recent is the Red Hoptober, which i assumed (fairly, I think) to be a hoppy American red ale when I caught it on the shelves. I’m not sure that descriptor is all that accurate, however. Tasting note follows:

New Belgium Red Hoptober

NOTES: 12 oz bottle, poured into tulip glass.

ABV: 6% abv, American red ale

APPEARANCE: Very, very dark red into brown. Looks dark brown in normal light and deep red when held up to the light. About as dark as something can be when you have “red” in the title, with a little bit of thin, off-white foam.

AROMA: Sweet and with strong nutty and toasted aroma. There’s something that smells like burnt sugar. It reminds me of the smell when a drop of malt extract falls onto the burner during a homebrew session. I can’t really pick up on the hops, which is worrisome.

TASTE: Lots of caramel and that nutty flavor comes back again. It’s pretty sweet. There are piney hops here as well. It tastes like a “darker beer” than an American red ale normally would, like a strong American brown, which is not a favorite style for me.

MOUTHFEEL: Medium, carbonation isn’t that strong.

DRINKABILITY: A little on the sweet side, but goes down pretty easy I suppose.

OVERALL: There’s something going on in this beer that just seems a bit out of whack to me. I have a tendency to grade things harsher when they don’t fit what I think they should taste like, and this is no exception. I don’t get the hops in the right way in this beer, and the style of malt sweetness just doesn’t fit well with the hops that are there. I give it 2 hops.


  1. I also just picked some of this up. I wanted to dislike it for mostly the same reasons (restrained hop profile even though the name has the word hop in it, sweetness) but I found myself liking this beer anyway. I thought it tasted a little earthy (not as earthy as NB Dirt) a little sweet, a little bitter. Really like the flavors of an autumn dinner – undersweetened pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, rosemary lamb with some kind of berry sauce, etc… I think you should try it again later in the season once it gets cold. I would normally be one to argue that ‘seasonality’ in beers is stupid since a good brew can be enjoyed anytime no matter the weather. I’m also against food/beer pairing, preferring beer and beer pairing. However, I have to reconcile liking this beer even though I shouldn’t.

    Also, my suggestion for YOU to try the beer once the seasons change is only because I don’t live in a place with seasons – so for me it will taste the same.

    1. I doubt my opinion is going to change much, but I’ll save a couple of bottles and try them again later in the fall. Thanks for the comment.

  2. On the NB brewery tour last week, this was the beer that they pulled off the bottling line and served us 20 minutes after it was packaged. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. Maybe it was the psychological persuasion of how “fresh” it was. Maybe it was the pro-NB propaganda I had been fed for 90 minutes. Maybe it was the 25 beers Doc and I had already consumed at Fort Collins, Odell and Funkwerks. Regardless, it was pretty tasty.

    I think NB gets a bad rap because the Fat Tire is so dreadfully dull. But I’m (mostly) a fan of the rest of their brews. The Lips of Faith series is generally outstanding and, as Kid noted, their standard stuff is both solid and affordable.

    1. I agree with everything you said there Barley. I “Think” I enjoyed the Hoptober, but I also “Think” I saw one of us chug a can of Fat Tire while staring down at industry in motion. I really have no idea which part of that last sentence is true.

  3. Thanks for the review! A little late to the party, but I appreciate the NBB plug. I agree with your review (almost) completely. Upon first sips the hop/malt balance just didn’t work for me. I’m not sure what I was looking for, but it wasn’t the sweetness I encountered, followed by the biting bitterness. It took me a few bottles, but I got there, and now RH is looking to be my regular rotator for fall…
    Again, thanks for the review!

  4. My wife, who is not a hop head, bought a make your own 6 pack tonight at the grocery. I “settled” on Guinness Stout for myself. She opened a Red Hoptober and tasted it for the first time. Two sips and she decided she just couldn’t finish it and passed it off to me. I liked the aroma, found the initial bite to be a little too sweet, but enjoyed the finish.

    This is one of those beers that I probably would purchase myself, but if it was among the freebies in a cooler at a party next to some bland lagers, I’d grab it.

    1. Definitely. There really isn’t any 2-hop beer out there that I wouldn’t reach for before drinking a Bud Light.

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