Beer: Bicycle Kick
Brewery: New Belgium Brewing Company (Fort Collins, CO)
5.1% ABV / 12 IBU
The story behind Bicycle Kick is a bit more interesting than the beer itself. It’s a six-way collaboration between brewers from the U.S. (New Belgium), England (Adnans), Mexico (Primus), Japan (Baird), Devil’s Peak (South Africa), and Brazil (Bodebrown), with each brewery handling canning and distribution in its respective market. Uh, high five to globalization? The concept is also rock-solid: an homage to soccer prepared in advance of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, tweaked with Russian national flower chamomile and lemongrass (representing the pitch/turf).
Bicycle Kick is a competent and surprisingly faithful rendition of the kölsch style. I remain perplexed as to why this assemblage of craft breweries zeroed in on a kölsch for a collaboration brew – it’s a difficult style to innovative with, and the best-case scenario is often “drinkable” and “not bad.” However, the worst-case scenario is often “drinkable” and “not bad,” so perhaps it’s not the greatest idea to take major risks when rolling something like this out worldwide.
Also, it’s worth noting that Bicycle Kick comes exactly as advertised. The chamomile notes can be detected in the slightly bitter (but not unpleasant) finish, and you can taste the lemongrass at the top of your palette and tip of your tongue. It’s actually a nice balance to the earthiness of the kölsch base. Typically, brewers will try to offset the yeastiness flavor of a kölsch with something sweet, like honey; with Bicycle Kick, they’ve balanced it out with aromatics and a decisively bitter element like tea, but it’s somehow less bitter than a typical kölsch. Overall, it’s a cut above “drinkable” and “not bad,” but fair warning: This ain’t no sippin’ beer. Drink cold and fast, and don’t let it get to room temperature, where it transforms into a total bummer.