Sunday, October 13, 2013

Review Double-Header: Bell's Brewery's Two Hearted Ale & Best Brown Ale

It was a good day on Friday at DeCicco's Family Market when they rolled out the display of Bell's Brewery beers. This is the first time they've arrived in New York, and I was pretty excited to try some midwest beer. Bell's Brewery is located in Comstock, Michigan, and have just recently been able to distribute their beer further than PA.

I did some research on the brewery's website and found that they seem to have a solid core lineup of beers and four seasonal brews, while the rest of their time seems devoted to concocting specialty one-off brews. Their specialty offerings range from their Sparkling Ale (a Belgian Triple) to their whopping Black Note Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout, which is a combination of two of their most popular stouts mixed together and aged in bourbon barrels. Sounds like it'd definitely put hair on your chest.

DeCicco's got two good offerings from them: their Two Hearted Ale (a year-round IPA) and their Best Brown Ale (their robust autumn seasonal). I've been having a busy weekend, what with going up to Binghamton and enjoying a visit to Galaxy Brewing Co., so I've had a few of these brews and toyed with what temperature they are best served at and whatnot. Incidentally, Best Brown Ale is best served at just a tad below room temperature while Two Hearted Ale is best served chilled. I like them both, but now I'll take a closer look at them and give them some scores.

Two Hearted Ale:

Appearance: 4.5/5
I poured Two Hearted Ale into a snifter and find the appearance fascinating. It has a beautiful honey-amber color, as can be expected from a good IPA, but what I found better was the carbonation and head. The head started out, after a slow but vigorous pour, as nothing more than a half-finger's-worth of foam. But the extraordinary amount of carbonation increased it, as it sat and I eyeballed it, to a full finger's worth of thick, white head. There is good lacing as well.

Nose: 4/5
THA is hopped with Centennial hops, a nice piney/citrusy hop. Immediately, the notes of grapefruit are apparent in the nose. This aroma is coupled with strong notes of pine, which is nice. Too often I get the citrus aspect of Centennials in a beer and not enough of the pine goodness. But the balance in this aroma is great! Some notes of lemon peel seep through too, giving the aroma the tiniest sour kick.

Taste: 5/5
Definitely notes of pine and grapefruit. The interesting thing is that the taste starts very smooth and ushers in a wave of hoppy bitterness to couple with the hops' flavor notes. I like that there's a sweetness to this beer that makes it very drinkable. The malt presence is more in the finish, but I detect a kind of medium bready malt coupled with some sweet nuttiness that gives this beer a light-to-medium body. And for being 7% ABV, there wasn't a strong alcohol presence at all.

Mouthfeel: 3.5/5
As stated, the body is pretty medium. The strongest sensation upon sipping this beer is the bitterness that fills my palate. The malty undertones only become really prominent toward the end of each sip.

Finish: 3.5/5
Fruity bitterness lingers on the back of my tongue, and that's it. It doesn't oversaturate my palate with ridiculous amounts of flavors with each sip. The finish is simple, sweet, and smooth.

Total Score: 88.5/100

This is a very solid IPA with a lot of things right about it. The appearance is very luxurious, the hop flavors take center stage, and the malt backbone is nice. It's not an over-the-top IPA, but it is definitely a very good offering that has perfected the things that an IPA should be to near-perfection. Bell's is available in most of the lower northeast and midwest, so if you haven't checked this IPA out, you should go pick up a six-pack and enjoy!

Best Brown Ale:

Appearance: 4.5/5
Upon pouring Best Brown Ale, a light tan foamy head formed. It was a solid two fingers' worth of head and looked very nice. The beer's color is a dark brown/amber that has a reddish hue to it, but the beer itself is nearly 100% opaque. It's a handsome beer, and there is some good carbonation present.

Nose: 3/5
The aroma of this beer is more subtle, but there are some nice notes in there. Hints of chocolate and toasty bread come through. Not too much else is detectable, however, so the nose falls a little flat for me.

Taste: 5/5
Serving this beer at just below room temperature really brings out the bold dark flavors of this roasty brew. Slightly bitter chocolate malt takes center stage in the flavor while some solid biscuit/bread malts accompany it. There are some coffee notes in there too. It's a rather thick, dark beer full of my favorite brown ale/stout flavors.

Mouthfeel: 4/5
Best Brown has a bold body brought about by all the darker malts. Thick, rich, and creamy, this beer's body is delectable. A good amount of carbonation makes itself present as well.

Finish: 4/5
Best Brown goes down smooth and leaves some roasted nut and chocolate flavors lingering on my palate.

Total Score: 85.5/100

I tended to like Best Brown Ale a bit more than Two Hearted Ale. Not that they're exactly comparable due to them being two completely different styles of beer, but something about Best Brown's flavor complexity make me keep going back for more. The nose is a little subtle, but the flavors and body more than make up for it. This is a bold brown ale great for those crisp fall evenings.

So if you're in New York, I recommend trying to track down these two beers and sample some of Michigan's finest. Until next time, cheers!


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