Review of New Belgium 1554 Enlightened Black Ale

08 May
Tonight’s review is of the New Belgium 1554 Enlightened Black Ale from the New Belgium Brewing Company situated in Fort Collins, Colorado.

This brewery is fairly well known in craft beer circles, however I have only had the privilege to sample one other beer in my still infant days of reviewing.  I have been informed that the 1554 is one of their best and that I should not pass it up.  Many friends I have encountered have even gone so far to say it’s one of their favorites.

The website,, gives a worthy description.

Born of a flood and centuries-old Belgian text, 1554 Enlightened Black Ale uses a 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  Their first challenge was deciphering antiquated script and outdated units of measurement, but trial and error (and many months of in-house sampling) culminated in 1554, a highly quaffable dark beer with a moderate body and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. 

I wonder if it will be one of my favorites as well?

This beer came packaged in a 12 oz. bottle and had an ABV of 5.6%.

The pour produced a very nice, delightful and gorgeous deep, dark ruby color that appeared very clear when held directly toward a light source.  A light tan head was built with a medium aggressive pour that had wonderful, ample amplitude and excellent lacing.  The lacing completely coated the inside of the glass and adhered for dear life for most of the drink.  This thing looks really, really good!!!  Well…. that’s a start!!!

As I perused the aroma, I was greeted with a rather tame note of a roasted grain that had some sweetness.  Dark fruits became evident, with a bouquet of plums and raisins, although they seemed to be a bit laid back and not very robust.  A gentle whiff of chocolate teased my nose, but it seemed to also be a bit relaxed and not of huge stature.

The taste revealed more of the chocolate, however it was, again, somewhat mild and with not a lot of volume.  I did pick out some “whole milk” suggestions, which I found to be favorable and complimentary.  The graininess that I encountered in the smell is also in the taste, but it is shoved to the side and almost hidden completely.  The dark fruit is a little more encouraging.  It really represents the taste more than the other characteristics.  Very low bitterness compels the tongue to concentrate on the fruit and chocolate, which to me was a positive attribute.

The mouthfeel was medium/thin.  I found it to be smooth, mostly creamy and slick.  I was a little disappointed to find that it did not leave much aftertaste on the palate, compounded by the fact that it became a bit watery as I continued through the drink.

All in all, I found the 1554 to be very easy to drink, but a bit tame in both aroma and flavor.  Everything seemed to be balanced well, however it was just a bit meek.  As the description says, it was very “quaffable” and would be a great session beer.  I was half way down the glass before I knew it.  This beer is definitely not horrible or “wrong” by any means.  In fact, I thought the appearance was wonderful.  It’s worth a try for sure, but I, myself, would have liked to see it beefed up a bit.  It’s not a beer I would ever turn down nor is it a brew I would ever scoff at, however I didn’t find that it was one of my favorites as so many others have.  To me it was a good, manageable beer that was a few steps above average.  I hope that doesn’t deter anyone from wanting to try it.  Give it a shot and enjoy it. 

What did you think of the 1554?  Have you had it?  Did you like it?  Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading.  Cheers!!!

Score:  3.7 out of 5
Grade:  B


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