Best Colorado amber ales to replace Fat Tire in your fridge

News about a recipe change and brand overhaul for New Belgium’s Brewing Co.’s famed Fat Tire amber ale rocked the beer community this week, causing many drinkers to lament the move away from its storied style. One of the most noticeable differences: The brewery dropped the beer’s stylistic label, billing it simply as a “crisper” and “brighter” Fat Tire.

In our own taste test, we confirmed the new Fat Tire looks and tastes more like a blonde ale, lacking many of the caramel and bready qualities that distinguished it and inspired countless copycats that helped revolutionize American craft beer.

Amber ales, which often cross over with red ales, are so-named for their hue and characterized by their malt-forward flavors that come through with rich notes of caramel and bready or biscuity qualities that bolster a medium-bodied beverage. Drinkers might also find a sturdy hop profile to help balance the malty sweetness.

While amber ales may not be the most popular style on the beer aisle these days – it represented about 2% of all craft beer sales in 2022, sustaining a decade-plus downward share trend, according to research firm IRI – they are often a go-to for those looking for an approachable yet flavorful brew without a bitter bite.

But several other Colorado breweries make recipes bound to feed your Fat Tire cravings. In fact, Breckenridge Brewery pointed this out in a press release Thursday, while Left Hand Brewing highlighted its longtime amber ale on Instagram.

Here are eight local amber ales to stock in our fridge, plus two imperial red ales for drinkers looking for a bigger and bolder pour. You could also reach for a Marzen or Oktoberfest, which are lagers that boast similar flavor profiles.

90 Shilling Ale, Odell Brewing Co.

This beer is a Colorado classic and, notably, made by New Belgium’s biggest competitor in its hometown. Described as a smooth and complex amber with a copper-ish color, 90 Shilling is widely available throughout the state on draft and in bottles and cans. 5.3% ABV, 32 IBUs

Amber Ale, Dry Dock Brewing Co.

A staple of Dry Dock Brewing’s lineup, Amber Ale has a higher ABV and IBU than most others on this list. Bittering hops help cut through the richness of the malt that’s also supported by earthy hops flavors. 5.8% ABV, 49 IBUs

Avalanche Amber Ale, Breckenridge Brewery

Breckenridge Brewery has been brewing Avalanche Amber Ale for more than 30 years, and according to the company, it’s the best-selling product in the beer maker’s portfolio. Caramel malts lend a toffee-like sweetness to the flavor, which is paired with a medium body and a touch of hops for balance. 5% ABV, 19 IBUs

Pinstripe Red Ale, Ska Brewing

Ska Brewing’s Pinstripe Red Ale is lighter in body than many amber ales, which makes it an easy-drinking option. The recipe features a lovely balance of caramel malts and liberty hops that give it a slightly fruity finish. 5.2% ABV, 30 IBUs

Rail Yard Ale, Wynkoop Brewing Co.

Described as “hearty and refreshing,” Wynkoop Brewing’s flagship amber ale boasts all the maltiness you love from an Oktoberfest-style lager plus additional fruity aromas of flavors. It’s available exclusively on draft at the brewery, located near Denver’s Union Station. 5.2% ABV, 21 IBUs

Sawtooth Amber Ale, Left Hand Brewing Co.

Brewed since 1993, Left Hand Brewing Co.’s Sawtooth Amber Ale features a malty punch up front before finishing crisp and dry with herbal and citrus hop flavors. The recipe uses some wheat, too, which helps give it a full-bodied mouthfeel. 5.3% ABV, 27 IBUs

Craving something with more kick? Try these imperial red ales.

Maybe amber ales don’t excite you or you’re looking to level up – try going for an imperial red ale. These beers sport that namesake hue plus high alcohol strength and intense bitterness. Consider the style the amber ale’s bigger, bolder and more aggressive sibling.

Wreak Havoc from Bootstrap Brewing and Furia from Raices Brewing Co. placed first and second, respectively, at the 2022 U.S. Open Beer Championship in the aforementioned style category.

Wreak Havoc comes in at 8.5% ABV alongside 88 IBUs, while Furia clocks 8.3% ABV and 70 IBUs.

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