Archive for the 'Bell’s' category
Post Update: As is evidenced from the original review below, I’m a bit of a Hopslam fan. I know I’m not alone in this regard, as this beer has reached a following of nearly epic proportions, though some think that the lofty rep isn’t quite deserved. Regardless, it’s a big beer with hop character and flavor that is difficult to parallel. Upon getting my hands on my first six-pack of Hopslam, I elected to drink 5 of them and put away the sixth to see what would happen with age. Tonight, nearly 2 years after the fact, I opened that beer to see what has transpired over the past months.
Now, I know that an IPA doesn’t generally improve with age. However, due to the high alcohol content and monster hop bite of the Hopslam, I couldn’t help but be curious enough to cellar this one. Well, lemme tell you, it’s a very different beer now. While there still exists a considerable hop aroma, and even some hop notes in the flavor, the huge hop profile of the original beer has all but disappeared. Now, after 2 years, this beer tastes more like a malty pale ale than an IPA. The fresh floral effect is no longer here, leaving behind only a hint of bitterness that tells us some big hop used to live here but has since moved on. On the flip side, the malt flavor is thick and rich, giving pronounced sweetbread flavors that weren’t noticeable in the original. There also remain some grapefruit flavors here, but they have diluted far too much to be effective, entirely losing that acidic citrus burn that the original possesses. This is still a good beer, no doubt, and tastes extremely mellow for one of such high ABV, but it isn’t a Hopslam. So, while this has evolved into something quite tasty, my opinion is that it isn’t an equal to the original. My advice, save yourself the cellar space and drink your Hopslam fresh! I happen to have also saved a Dogfish Head 120-Minute IPA that I plan to open later this week. Tune in then to see if the same fate has befallen it!
Original Post (1/6/07): When I first learned of this brew from Kevin over at Kevbrews, I was led to believe that it was “Un-f***ing-believable”. Now, I don’t have to tell you that this is a pretty bold statement about a beer, especially between two guys who are presumably serious beer geeks. So, while I was excited about trying this beer, I was also a bit wary of a letdown. Big expectations too often end in disappointment. However, after the first taste, I can proudly say that this beer is abso-f***ing-lutely incredible.
The beer pours, initially, a rather clear dark golden color. However, it has apparently also undergone a bit of bottle fermentation because, upon emptying the entire bottle into the glass, some trub at the bottom of the bottle cloudies the situation a bit. The aroma of the HopSlam is extremely fresh and aromatic – there is a heavy floral presence with a slight grapefruit sourness. In the mouth, this beer is big and complex. I’m not sure what hops go into the making of this beer, but I’d like to know, because I’d surely try to emulate it in a homebrew. The first sensation is of hop-burn on the tip of the tongue that leads right into a big flowery hop bitterness reminiscent of American northwestern varieties of hops. On across the tongue, a blast of grapefruit and citrus hits the tastebuds that, while still sour, lends a slight sweetness to the brew. In the back of the mouth, the grapefruit sticks around but is cut again by that hop bitterness. The aftertaste of this brew doesn’t squat at the throat but rather takes over the whole mouth and sticks around for many seconds after the drink. The hops pervade both the mouth and the nasal passage and anxiously await the next sip. This would have to be one of the best IPA-style beers that I’ve ever tasted and would probably rank in my top 5 or 10 beers of all time. And, apparently the folks at Beer Advocate agree with this assumption as this is the only beer I’ve yet noticed to have a rating of 99. The only down-side of this brew is that it was a single-batch release, and this 12 oz. of goodness is likely the last taste of this I’ll ever have. That’s down-right soul-crushing.
I ain’t gonna lie to you guys – I’m not that excited about this beer. A) I’m not REALLY a big stout fan – its true. B) I don’t really like most ales with ‘cream’ in the name. C) It’s kinda a boring label (in my opinion, but isn’t all of this my opinion?). The only thing this beer has going for it with me is the name, because I love most Bell’s beers. Our old housemate and buddy, who I shall call Perry, left this in the fridge many moons ago, and it’s overdue to be consumed, so here we go…
This stout, unsurprisingly, pours super dark hue with a light caramel colored head – it’s a fairly rich head that dissipates slowly into a thin coating over the beer. In the nose, it’s all bitter chocolate, coffee, and malt. It’s rich, that’s for sure – mighty rich. Whew! In the mouth, it’s super rich. Again, lemme be honest – right before drinking this beer, I took a couple of Thin Mints to the face (it’s Girl Scout cookie season). As it happens, this beer is an excellent accompaniment to Thin Mints. It is chock full of chocolate, mostly of a sharp and bitter variety. In addition, there are some lightly acidic coffee features and a toffee softness to this. These flavors traverse the tongue and, towards the back of the mouth, I’m sensing a dark raspberry fruit flavor kick back into the mouth, making this akin to a black forest fruit dessert in many ways. And, to be sure, the mouthfeel is thick and silky smooth. This isn’t a bad beer – it’s actually really good for what it is. Honestly, it’s too rich and too dark for my current mood. But, it has a great combination of rich malty flavors, chocolate hints, and dark fruits, and I can’t deny that these play well together. If this is your thing, and if you can even still find this beer on shelves, then check it out before the weather gets warm enough to make this stuff a moot point. However, for me, I’ll admit that this is a well executed beer by Bell’s, and I’ll move on to some lighter varieties…
Tis the season, friends, for holiday beers. I haven’t had a whole heckuva lot of these so far this season – honestly it can be a bit overwhelming to choose, even for a very frequent drinker like myself. This time of year, these things tend to come out of the woodwork. However, I happen to know that Bell’s generally makes a tasty brew and, furthermore, I really like the understated label on this beer (much better than the creepy Pickled Santa label – stay tuned to see that one). So, I felt like it was a safe bet to invest in about 6 of these.
This beer pours a very hazy dark brown color with tons of suspended debris. The head on this is pretty understated in its own right, but what exists is of a caramel color. In the nose, this is mostly rich brown malts, but with some spicing. I believe this brew is intended to be an interpretation of a Scotch ale, and that’s more or less what we get, with the exception of some holiday-ey spice characteristics. In the mouth, this is a rich and warming brew (even when it’s cold). The initial sensation here is sweet and malty with a light alcohol burn. However, as the beer travels down the tongue, the spiciness takes the forefront – it seems there is some pepper heat to this, as well as those myriad other Christmas spices for which I don’t know the name, but you’ll recognize as soon as you either drink this beer, crack open a fruitcake, or smell the potpourri at your Mom’s house. The mouthfeel to this is surprisingly viscous and doesn’t stick to the tongue that much. Rather, it washes pretty clean, leaving just a bit of pepper heat and a light malt presence. Overall, it’s a tasty brew, and a great session beer, as far as Christmas Ales go. It’s tasty, but not a standout – the kind of beer you can safely bring to your holiday gathering and feel confident that everyone will like it…
Bell’s, Bell’s, Bell’s. Y’all make some pretty sweet beers, and I just keep buying ‘em.
The Lager of the Lakes pours about like a lager should – it’s a crystal clear light golden (actually a bit lighter than most lagers) with a nearly non-existent head. The aroma of this is quite malty and a little bit sour. In the mouth, this is a pretty straightforward lager. There is some carbonation on the front of the tongue that leads into some malt that is meaty and a little bit sweet. Through the mouth, the richness of the malt develops a bit more, and there is a decent complement of hop bitterness. The flavor of this, the meaty malt and the hop bitterness, seems to build and build through the back of the mouth, culminating right at the back of the throat and then dissipating at a moderate pace after the swallow. It’s interesting how this beer looks lighter than most lagers but actually tastes a bit bigger than most. More than meets the eyes, I suppose. So, all in all, this is a lager. It’s a pretty good lager, and pretty big, but I just have difficulty getting TOO excited about a lager. However, make no mistake, this would be a a tasty daily drinker. For my money, though, I’d settle for a cheaper beer of comparable quality like Moosehead (I do love those Canadian lagers)…
I was shocked – shocked I tell ya – to see that there was no review of the Bell’s Pale Ale on Sevenpack. Let me remedy that for our fair readers. The beer pours a beautiful, deep golden (almost bronze) hue with very little head. There is a slight, malty aroma – overall it smells and looks very clean and crisp.
The beer has a sweet taste and very clean mouthfeel. It has very little bitterness. In comparison with other higher-end pale ales, I would say it is remarkably sweet and devoid of bitterness. For instance, the Dale’s Pale Ale is much more bitter than this. The Bell’s doesn’t lose out as a result – it’s just markedly different. Of course, there are also distinct differences in the abv of those two beers – the DPA rocks in somewhere in the mid-7 range, while the Bell’s pours a lower 5.2%. Perhaps that’s where the biggest difference lies between those two and results in the overall lighter, more airy mouthfeel. The Two-Hearted is definitely more akin to the DPA than this one.
That was a long tangent. In any case, this is a good beer. It’s certainly not as robust as many, but that’s not a bad thing. I could definitely see this being a great session beer (although a little expensive for session drinking) and a good one to have on hand while hanging out in the summer sun. All in all, a classy beer and another good offering by the fine folks at Bell’s.
I first had this new offering from Bell’s at Tyler’s Taproom in Carrboro, NC. At the time, I had never seen this bottled before, and I worried that it might be a draft-only offering. However, to be sure, I headed down to the Blue Light that night to investigate and, lo and behold, there was a sparkling 6-pack of the Sparkling Ale, just waiting to come home with me!
This beer pours a clear and, surprise surprise, sparkling golden color. There is an excess of carbonation here, and loads of dense bubbles pour forth from the bottom of the glass, giving the beer a very ‘festive’ appearance. Oddly, all these bubbles don’t lend to much of a head – there only exists a very thin stark white film on the top of the beer. The aroma of this beer is very pungent and very sweet, full of candi sugar with hints of orange zest. For a golden ale that looks so typical, this strong of an aroma is a rare treat. In the mouth, this brew exudes flavor. The primary flavor here is of candi sugar, and it rides all the way down the tongue and sticks well into the aftertaste. In addition, you can taste some citrus undertones and a light banana backbone. Finally, there seems to be a tiny bit of coriander that creeps up on occasion. It is a smooth and unabrasive brew that has a silky texture with enough carbonation kick to really enliven the tastebuds. To be quite frank, this is the best beer I’ve had in a long time. Granted, you guys know that I LOVE Belgian Tripels, and this is very close to the genre. In fact, Bell’s professes this to be an “American Triple”, which I’m not really familiar with – however, if Bell’s wants to make this into a new niche of it’s own, then I’ll gladly buy in. This is a great beer full of great flavors. It is refreshing enough to be at home on a hot summer day and it’s rich and complex enough to make a great digestif. Basically, go out and buy a few six packs. If you don’t like ‘em, then you can send ‘em to me!
Bell’s, you just keep impressing me! I was in the mood for a tasty wheat ale, and I wasn’t sure I’d find anything new. Then, lo and behold, I find that Bell’s has a tasty limited edition brew that fits the bill completely. This is apparently a brew to commemorate, well, Bell’s 8,000th batch of beer. Let’s see how it tastes.
This beer pours a medium golden with some dense debris. The aroma of this is very rich and sweet with some citrus tints. There is a very thin head that sticks with the beer for quite a while, but is generally inconsequential. In the mouth, this beer is really a treat. The initial sensation is of a lemon zest sweetness. On through the mouth, this sweetness develops and is joined by coriander and spices, along with rich grain that gives the beer fullness and some extra complexity for a wheat ale. In the aftertaste, this beer holds onto a surprising amount of the sweetness, and it reaches from deep in the throat all the way up to the nasal cavity. The flavors this beer exhibits aren’t so different from other good Belgian witbiers or German hefeweizens. However, what Bell’s has done is to turn all the flavors up to 11, giving this beer an unusual fullness and richness for what is usually a light and breezy variety. This is a wheat ale that, while crisp and refreshing enough for a summer afternoon, is also rich and complex enough for a winter night by the fire. Obviously, I like this beer, and I’m sad it’s a limited edition brew.
Matt - September 26, 2007
As Dave pointed out a few days ago Oktoberfest has officially begun. In keeping with the reason for the season it time to start tasting this falls offerings. I would have liked to have seen how this brew would have stacked up in last year’s Oktoberfest Challenge but I guess that’s neither here nor there now. Bell’s generally puts out a quality product and Ben has said their Two-Hearted Ale is among his top five beers of all time so I have high hopes for the Octoberfest.
This interpretation has a clear, copper color. It pours with a gracious amount of white head but it disappears after a minute or two. It has no distinct aroma that suggests its contents. It has a crisp, metallic smell with a bit of sweetness, which is simple yet enticing. The majority of the taste is of deep maltiness, and I’m getting a little nut at the end. There is a bitter sweet “grapeness” that tickles the back of the upper palate. I’m experiencing a hefty dose of carbonation with each swallow but it doesn’t burn as it goes down the throat. A small hop quality creeps in to the nasal cavity giving this beer a bigger flavor than I had expected. This is a fantastic brew and I highly recommend it. This is a perfect beer for any fall occasion.
When it comes to IPAs, there are about 3 solid tiers. First, there’s the very large middle tier that comprises that vast majority of IPAs – these are the IPAs that are all quite tasty; these IPAs may have very different characteristics, but they all fall into that category of “Yeah, that’s pretty good” – they aren’t phenomenal, and they certainly aren’t bad. Hell, they may be better than most beers out there. But, they still don’t necessarily transcend. There’s also a second tier of IPAs that, sadly, aren’t up to snuff. I ain’t gonna name any names, but there are a few IPAs out there that just fall tragically short – they aren’t hoppy enough, taste metallic and sour, have a disappointing aroma, or are just plain bad. That’s a tough group. Finally, there’s this third tier of IPAs that are absolutely phenomenal. These guys transcend beer in general. The aroma is rife with floral hops, the flavor is bitter but with a delicious balancing malt, the color is beautiful, and the experience of drinking them can seem multi-sensory. Obviously, I like this group of IPAs. Honestly, I can only think of 4 such beers that immediately jump into this category: Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA, Stone 10th Anniversary IPA, Bell’s HopSlam Ale, and now Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t impressed that Bell’s had 2 entries in this list and, while I have often downplayed Bell’s when compared to other American micros, they are certainly creeping quickly up my list of top-notch breweries.
The Two-Hearted Ale pours a lovely dark golden color that is just slightly hazy, and there is an effervescent white head that sticks around for quite some time. The aroma of this beer is just great – it’s very floral and pungent and sticks in the nasal cavity. In addition, there is a unique tartness that is reminiscent of SweetTarts. However, with all of this aroma, the scent is never abrasive, but rather soft and pleasant and you find yourself spending undue amounts of time just sticking your nose in the glass. In the mouth, this beer is big and complex, but also very accessible. Initially, the beer comes with a soft floral sweetness. On the middle of the tongue, a fruity, floral bitterness creeps in with impressive prominence. It’s a big presence with a couple of unique flavors that eventually fades into an aftertaste that is more bitter than floral. All in all, this beer has a huge mouthfeel and toes the line between too bitter and too sweet to find this great balance that is just about perfect. I hate to overhype a beer, but I just really, really enjoy this. I honestly didn’t foresee enjoying this beer so much, but right now the Two-Hearted is running neck-in-neck with the Dogfish Head 90-Minute to be the best IPA on the shelf, as far as I’m concerned.
I ain’t gonna lie to you, I’m not the biggest fan of American wheat ales. Most frequent readers of SevenPack (I’m sure there are a couple of you out there) will know that I’m especially partial to a good German Hefeweizen, and I will almost always reach for the German wheat variety over the American. The Germans achieve a fabulous smooth and citrusy sweetness that hits me just right. The Americans tend to brew a more abrasive and metallic version of the same = not for me. So, going into the Oberon, I was a little wary, knowing that this is an American take on a wheat ale. I’ll go ahead and give you the verdict up front: It’s no German, but it IS a great beer, for an American wheat.
The beer looks cloudy and golden, much like the majority of wheat beers on the market, but perhaps just a tad darker. The aroma carries a heavy scent of orange – much heavier than I expect. In fact, little else makes it through. And, it’s not an artificial or overly-sweet orange aroma. Rather, it smells like a big bucket full of sliced oranges – very earthy and authentic. In the mouth, you will taste that metallic flavor that generally turns me off of American wheats. However, it isn’t the predominant factor here. Rather, there is a good amount of orange citrus in the flavor and a smooth light grain flavor. Also, the mouthfeel is very smooth and just a little bit thicker than many wheat ales. The thing I really like about this is that it does taste very natural – it isn’t too sweet or artificial. Also, it is complicated enough that you can enjoy it slowly and savor the flavor, whereas some of these wheats taste good but are far too chuggable due to their simplicity. Good job, Bell’s, and recommended especially to those that generally like American wheats anyway.
I gotta be honest with you – I’m not normally too keen on porters. I’m not really sure why, either. I generally like dark beers, and I generally like big beers with lots of flavor, and generally porters encompass both of these attributes. However, there’s just something about ‘em I don’t dig. I suppose that maybe I’m just not into the smokiness or meatiness of these beers – maybe I’m a more of a Nancy that likes sweet fruity beers. Yeah, that’s probably it. Regardless, I was excited to try out this porter from the nice folks at Bell’s that was sent to me by Kevin over at KevBrews. And, even if they aren’t my favorite, I must admit that this is a pretty tasty brew.
The pour of this is super-dark, as expected, although there is some translucence around the edges of the glass. The aroma is mostly rich chocolate and malt – rather sweet. In the mouth, this beer initially exhibits a light sweetness on the tip of the tongue that tends to last all the way down the tongue. However, during the journey, that sweetness also picks up a great smokiness about the middle of the tongue, and a malty bread flavor joins the party towards the back of the mouth. In the aftertaste, the sweetness hops off the train, leaving behind a rich flavor of malt and smoke – very delicious. I think the reason I like this porter is that it reminds me a lot more of a stout than most porters. While the smokiness certainly exists, it doesn’t take the front seat. Rather, it rides along with other less-abrasive passengers and plays only a supporting role. Also, there isn’t any of the ‘meaty’ flavors that often come along with a porter. Instead, it’s just a tasty beer that skillfully skirts the border between porter and stout. It seems like a lot of folks like this beer, and I can understand why.
Okay, folks. I just got back from Virginia and, as usual, I had to pick up a few tasty brews. One thing I noticed is that there is a sudden influx of brews from Bell’s Brewery, which I have hitherto been unaware of. The only problem with this is that they were all full six-packs at the store I visited, and so I couldn’t grab one of each. So, as a starter, I grabbed the brown ale. My initial impression of this is good, based upon the packaging alone. it’s a pretty classic package with nice lettering and a picture of an owl. It’s hard to argue with owls. They’re wise.
The color of this is a darkish brown, and it is quite cloudy. The clouding is rather dense and there is no apparent debris. There is, however, obvious carbonation in this that presents itself in a champaigne-like constant bubbling. The aroma here is sweet and malty, as expected. In addition to this, there are light hints of chocolate and cola on the head. The taste is good, but I’m not blown away. There is an initial carbonation burn that is quickly followed by a spry sweetness. The carbonation stays high through the mouth as the beer merges into a bread-like taste mingled with a tad of dark chocolate. The aftertaste is light, but also borrows a bit of dark chocolate. This is a fairly flavorful beer, and the mouthfeel is at once both full and fleeting. However, it still doesn’t really sweep me off my feet. So, the bottom line is: good, but not great.