Today, I’m writing about new Belgium 1554 Black Lager, formerly known as Enlightened Black Ale. Why is it called both an ale and a lager? The main reason is due to silly laws about alcohol in America. An ale is a beer that uses ale yeast, and subjected to higher fermentation temperature than a lager. A lager uses lager yeast, and is generally fermented at low temperature for a longer time than an ale. Lager means to store, so it makes sense that it takes longer. 1554 is unique, because it is brewed with lager yeast at ale temperatures. So it’s kinda like a reverse Kolsch style, which uses ale yeast at lager temperatures.
On to the beer. At first pour, it is noticeably quite dark, with a creamy off white head. The flavor is fairly dry, with a nice chocolate sensation. Additionally, it reminded me of toffee, with the ever so slight sweetness it had. The mouthfeel is very rich and rewarding without feeling heavy. At 6% ABV, 1554 is no pushover, but manages to mask the alcohol with it’s rich aroma.
As far as food pairings, I would recommend steak and potatoes or barbecue. It has enough flavor and aroma to stand up to a hearty meal like that. Additionally it is not so sweet or bitter that it overpowers any flavors. If you like salsa, this is definitely a beer to pair with mole. I can imagine carnitas tacos with a rich mole paired with 1554 would be a match made in heaven.
If you ask New Belgium workers, they recommend barbecue, bacon, and one person recommended “1554 with bacon-wrapped cream cheese-stuffed jalapeno halves with a cherry chipotle dipping sauce.” I can tell they are a foodie, and I must say that sounds delicious.
What food do you enjoy drinking beer with?