As part of my 40 day cross-country driving sojourn, I was making it across the absolutely beautiful state of Wyoming. I had come from Devil’s Tower National Monument where, contrary to popular belief, there is no secret government UFO landing base on the far side- just a lot of critters. My goal for that Friday was to be in Jackson Hole by the evening so I could see the Grand Teatons and Yellowstone National Park over the next few days.
After I checked into a hotel I wandered into town to find a good place to grab dinner and a beer. For what I had previously considered a ski town, the streets were busy for a September evening. Traveling alone, I usually looked for places where I could sit at a bar and eat… I was looking for someplace with the words “bar” or “grill” in the title. I found more than just a good name in the Silver Dollar Bar and Grill.
The place was jumping. A toe-tapping, four piece bluegrass band named Steam Powered Airplane was rocking the joint. I immediately meet Katie and Laura who inform me–over the loud twang of the dueling banjos–that I need to order a Flat Tire. Hmmm. I’m weary of a beer with the world “flat” in the name. But I turn to the bartender anyway- “Lemme get a Flat Tire.” “You’re not from around here, are ya?” says the barkeep with a grin.
“No, we said FAT Tire” giggle the girls. “Well that sure sounds better,” I say. And as I chuckle, I’m served a Fat Tire Amber Ale.
What a nice looking beer this is. It’s a deep golden color and to the bartenders credit, it is a perfect pour. The head is about one finger thick and as far as I can tell, it is holding. My first sip leaves a good clean taste in my mouth, nothing very bitter. It is a well balanced amber but I might say that it’s just a little malty. It has an earthy or woodsy flavor that I can’t put my finger on. Halfway through, the head is still obvious. To the credit of the establishment, the glasses are washed properly and the bartender tells me that he cleans the lines in the tap quite often- a refreshing change from my dirty New York upbringing.
The girls tell me that the beer is the local favorite and is brewed in neighboring Colorado. I later find out that the New Belgium Brewery of Fort Collins, CO. is behind this beer. Like most microbreweries, they have a quaint history that starts in owner Jeff Lebesch’s basement and include his epiphany of beerophoria, his fat tired mountain bike and the first wind powered brewery in America. The taste I could not describe is penned accurately on their website: “Toasty malt flavors (sorta like biscuits just pulled from the oven) coasting in equilibrium with crisp hoppiness.” Damn, I wish I could write as well as that.
Biscuits or not, I like this beer. My second was as good as the first. Number three took me through the end of the last set for Steam Powered Airplane, bar-none the best band I’ve ever heard in a bar venue like that. The ever-informative Katie tells me that the band leader, Tucker Smith, is a late-blooming virtuoso with any string instrument- he just picked up a guitar one day not too long ago and started playing. This later led to the banjo (among other instruments) and now the mandolin for which he apologized for playing so “poorly” as he only recently started teaching himself to play it. I fully accept his apology as the band brings down the house with rockabilly cuts like “Rockytop Tennessee” and “Eastbound And Down”.
I picked up a six pack of Fat Tire Amber Ale and put it on ice in my cooler as I left Jackson Hole just in case I never saw this fine beer again. I had one in Yellowstone a day or two later and I have to say, the bottled version was as faithful to the tap as Old Faithful was to the tourists that day. In fact, I would say I liked the bottle a bit more because the malty taste I referred to earlier was not as pronounced.
For more information on Fat Tire, the other beers brewed by the New Belgium Brewery, or to find out when their benefit bicycle rally–The Tour de Fat–will be near you, check out their site. And finally, for info on Steam Powered Airplane, visit their steam powered website.