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Beer Review: New Belgium Brewing’s 1554 Enlightened Black Ale

September 23, 2008
Part 3 of a (now) 4 Part Series
Part I: Fat Tire Amber Ale
Part II: Mothership Wit Organic Wheat Beer
Part III: 1554 Enlightened Black Ale
Part IV: Mighty Arrow Pale Ale

Cheers,
The Beer Snob

I tend to like my beers on the darker side so I was eager to try this beer, especially after trying New Belgium’s Fat Tire and enjoying it so much.

According to the New Belgium Web site:

Born of a flood and centuries-old Belgian text, 1554 Enlightened Black Ale uses a light lager yeast strain and dark chocolaty malts to redefine what dark beer can be. In 1997, a Fort Collins flood destroyed the original recipe our researcher, Phil Benstein, found in the library. So Phil and brewmaster, Peter Bouckaert, traveled to Belgium to retrieve this unique style lost to the ages. Their first challenge was deciphering antiquated script and outdated units of measurement, but trial and error (and many months of in-house sampling) culminated in 1554, a highly quaffable dark beer with a moderate body and mouthfeel.

Let’s give this a try, shall we?

The Pour
This pours in a pilsner glass with a nicely thick and pillowy cafe au lait colored head. There is great lacing on the glass and a nice coffee color. At first glance it looks pretty black but held up to the light, its true color shows.

The Nose
The nose is quite dark. There are definite chocolate and licorice notes in the nose, as well as toffee and malts. There is only a slight hint of hops. There is almost a dustiness to the nose but it works with the chocolate and licorice. It smells as old as its recipe, but in a good way.

The Taste
This is a dry, strongly dark ale. There are great roasted malt flavors present, with hints of fresh bitter coffee and slight hops notes on the finish. It’s medium bodied, and the dustiness is present as well. It’s like you’re drinking a happy distant memory. The chocolate, toffee and licorice flavors of the malts are all present but no one flavor is the star of the show. All work together to make for an interesting deep, dark flavor.

Overall
This is an interesting beer for when you want something really different. This is a beer to be savored and sipped like a fine wine, experiencing its nuances and depth of flavor. It’s not necessarily a beer I would go back to often, because there are so many others to try, but if you want a deep dark brew, this is it. Overall, a well crafted and intriguing beer.

Recommended: Yes, it has an interesting character that must be experienced at least once.

Price: $2.99 for a 22-oz. bottle

ABV: 5.6? (One source said 5.6% and one said 5.5%)

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10 comments

  1. Welcome to the New Belgium revolution. Good post. I just tried 1554 and I came to much of the same conclusion, just not as strong.

    We’ve got all kinds of their beers out here in Houston, and we love them all. Good 3 out of 5 Star beer that sells well in the various slightly premium restaurant bars and whatnot. Hopefully you guys will get more. We have a lot of different ones (Blue Paddle, Summer and Spring Seasonals, Sunshine Wheat, etc). Let me know if you need a trade.


  2. Nicely stated review!


  3. why thank you beer brotha and beer sort of girl!


  4. This beer was actually fermented with lager yeast. New Belgium ran into some label technicalities in Texas and had to call it an Ale in order to sell it. Either way, it’s a nice beer. I found many Schwarzbier like characteristics (which is a dark lager). Glad to see you back Beer Snob. Now come to a tasting already!


  5. Yeah, whatever it is, it’s tasty and unique. I’ll try to come to a tasting soon, Smitty, just let me know when there’s another!


  6. […] (now) 4 Part Series Part I: Fat Tire Amber Ale Part II: Mothership Wit Organic Wheat Beer Part II: 1554 Enlightened Black Ale Part IV: Mighty Arrow Pale […]


  7. […] I: Fat Tire Amber Ale Part II: Mothership Wit Organic Wheat Beer Part III: 1554 Enlightened Black Ale Part IV: Mighty Arrow Pale […]


  8. […] I: Fat Tire Amber Ale Part II: Mothership Wit Organic Wheat Beer Part III: 1554 Enlightened Black Ale Part IV: Mighty Arrow Pale […]


  9. I liked this beer, but I wanted it to be “more Belgian” — once I started thinking of it as schwarzbier I was okay liked it more.


  10. elGreat beer why do label a lager beer as an a



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