Fat Tire enjoys phat times
Holding a glass of Fat Tire Amber Ale, Dave Siebenthaler peered at the beer like a connoisseur as he spoke of its popularity, happy to talk about a subject he’s given thought to before.
“I’ll tell you why it’s a damn good beer,” he said before delving into reasons, most of which include taste and it having the smoothness of a light beer.
Siebenthaler was nearing the end of a Fat Tire pitcher he shared with his boss at Steamers’ Bar and Grill. The 36-year-old spoke of the ale with reverence, displaying the type of preference that helped make Fat Tire one of the most celebrated beers in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
It’s been about a year since Fat Tire emerged on tap here, and has spread like a spill on the beer-swilling South Shore scene.
“It had come to my attention how popular it was,” said Siebenthaler.
Few beers in recent memory have had the success now shared by the makers of Fat Tire, New Belgium Brewing Co. In 2002, the privately owned brewery posted $45 million in sales, according to a Fortune magazine article. The same piece stated the brewery’s output in 2003 was 255,000 barrels, with each individual barrel holding 31 gallons of brew.
This year, according to Dave Macon, the company’s Northern California regional sales director, about 300,000 barrels of beer will be produced.
Macon was part of a New Belgium team that scouted the Tahoe area to gauge the interest in Fat Tire. He was amazed.
“I would say the whole Tahoe basin is one of our best areas to sell (our) beers,” he said. “Our beer fits well with the mountain lifestyle. I don’t think it could not have gone better area-wise.”
Inspired by his trips to Belgian breweries, Jeff Lebesch and his wife, Kim Jordan, opened their own commercial beer business in 1991. A full-fledged brewery was made in Fort Collins, Colo., and opened for business in 1995.
Macon said a second, larger brewery allowed Fat Tire to penetrate the Northern California market, starting with San Francisco in January 2003.
Kroucik complimented the microbrew knowledge and taste of Tahoe locals, adding ski resorts have asked for stocks of the beer. He estimated Truckee has the largest per capita drinkers of Fat Tire in Northern California.
Most new beers or drinks are popular for three to four months then start dropping in demand, said Kroucik, who has been in the distribution business for 23 years. He cited California Coolers and Zima as examples.
“I don’t see Fat Tire right now leveling out at all,” he said. From that point it’s more than a phenomenon.”
Some, like 23-year-old Jordan Foreman, are unconvinced of Fat Tire’s staying power.
“Fat Tire is all right. It was big but I think it’s lost it’s edge,” he said. “Fat Tire just doesn’t have the taste and the odor is horrible.”
During the conversation with Siebenthaler at Steamers’ Bar and Grill, he revealed he carried no discrimination against any beer.
“But I’ll tell you what, there’s no such thing as a bad beer,” he said. “After the first two they all taste the same.”
– E-mail William Ferchland at firstname.lastname@example.org