New Belgium introduced six new beers to their year-round lineup for 2017—a trio of hoppy beers under the Voodoo Ranger brand, a lemon-heavy sour and a couple of easy-drinking ales that seem to be an indication of a new direction for the brewery. I had the chance to drink them all, back to back (to back to back to back to back), and wrote down my thoughts. Also, I ranked them, just because. So here you go, six new beers from New Belgium, ranked worst to first.
Remember back in the ‘90s, when you were at the beach and you drank bottles of Corona with a wedge of lime? This beer is like that. It’s a golden ale brewed with Persian lime and coriander. It smells like a margarita and tastes like the Corona of yester-year. Or maybe that weird Bud Light Lime thing. It has more body than most mass-produced lager, though, and the coriander comes in a little on the back end. The lime is ever-present, but subtle. Is it gimmicky? Sure. Would I drink it on the beach on a hot day? Hell yeah.
You know how some people get turned off simply by hearing the term “sour beer?” This is the sour you want to give those people. Tartastic Lemon Ginger Sour is a super-easy-drinking, light beer coming in at a low 4.5% ABV that’s vaguely tart and just as funky as it is sour. I get lots of lemon up front, but it takes a while before I can pick out the ginger. When it warms, the ginger kicks in and things get more interesting with a spicy, herbal element. Tartastic is proof that the category is wide and varied. Some sours aren’t really that sour at all. Like this one.
Here we have a golden ale that seems to be a bit of a departure for the brewery. They’re releasing it in cans—not just standard 12-ounce cans, but big ass 24-ounce cans. Also, 15 packs. That should tell you right away that you’re dealing with a beer made for mass consumption. It smells like the lagers I snuck out of my dad’s fridge. It’s crisp and light, has that German hops bite, although I’m not sure what hops are actually in here. It’s super simple, er should I say, easygoing.
New Belgium revamped some of their hoppy offerings and the 8 Hop is the lightest of the lot. Like the name says, they use eight different hop varieties, but there’s plenty on the malt side to keep things balanced. It smells bright and syrupy, like mangos. There’s a lot of zest in the mouthfeel, which is also fluffy, like you’re swallowing a cloud. There’s not much mango sweetness in the sip, mostly just pine and some citrus rind, but there’s plenty of hop bitterness on the backend. I could see pairing this beer with everything they serve at a sports bar. Also, summer.
Full disclosure—I was a big fan of New Belgium’s Ranger IPA. It was one of my go-to canned beers. I wasn’t too happy when I heard New Belgium was messing with the recipe. Because I fear change. But alas, New Belgium knows what they’re doing and they didn’t reinvent the wheel with this thing. They just made another great IPA, hinging the whole beer on Mosaic and Amarillo hops. Voodoo Ranger smells like oranges and pineapple, and the fruit is more pronounced on the sip than with 8 Hop Pale—I get pineapple and mango. It’s a little maltier too, and heavier on the citrus. Much like Ranger before it, Voodoo Ranger is a damn good IPA. And a respectable 7% ABV that sneaks up on you.
It’s possible that I’m completely biased and I’m listing Voodoo Ranger IIPA as the best beer in the lot because I just like imperial IPAs. You could easily make a case for that, but also, this is a proper imperial IPA if there ever was one. It comes off all malt on the front end, with a thick, almost gooey mouthfeel. Overall, it comes off like honey. Then it gets fruity, with tropical flavors coming at you at once, like you’re sipping the juice at the bottom of a fruit cup. You get the requisite hop bite at the end of the sip, which is a bit on the boozy side as this entry in the Voodoo Ranger family jumps to 9% ABV. It’s easily my favorite beer in the batch, but also a little dangerous. Because it’s so good. And so boozy.