Bell’s Amber Ale

For a style in which beers can have varying amounts of malt and hops, shades of color, and thickness, Bell’s Amber Ale is a very solid representation of the style.  Hops and malt are balanced nicely and don’t produce too strong a flavor, which works hand-in-hand with the relatively light mouthfeel. Each sip begins with very light malt flavor and is refreshing.  Malt is the principal flavor, though it’s mild and yields only a slight sweetness.  The flavor is never overpowering and doesn’t fluctuate throughout the sip, but what makes this amber ale good is the balance of ingredients.  Because of it, each sip is smooth and yields a malt flavor that emerges just enough to notice.  Only in the middle of each sip does the hop element emerge to make itself known, and is so light it subsides before the finish. Though the hops are subtle, they lighten the flavor just a bit, which seems difficult due to the existing lightness.  After a while it can become a little filling, though it has nothing to do with the flavor, and a slight aftertaste can accumulate.  Bell’s Amber Ale is simple, but done well, and is a very good amber ale.  If you’re looking for a beer with richer flavor and a stronger malt element, you’ll want a brown ale, but this is perfect if you want a refreshing beer with a little extra flavor.

Overall                 8/10
Color                    6
Thickness            5
Hops/Malt          7
ABV                       5.8%

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Bell’s Pale Ale

This pale ale is interesting, and to me seems somewhere in between an American and English pale ale.  It is both hoppy and malty, fruity and sweet, and slightly spicy and creamy. Each sip starts with an average thickness, but has a springiness to it.  It’s not too heavy, and while a little over-carbonated, a fruitiness pokes through to lighten everything and make your mouth water.  The middle of each sip is very creamy, with the malt soothing your mouth, reminiscent of English pale ales.  The malt isn’t too overpowering, which is nice, but is quite a contrast from the beginning of the sip.  The back end is slighty spicy, an interesting flavor, but ends too strong, which gives the beer the feeling of being too thick.  The flavor contrasts are very interesting and tough to sort out at first.  Starting off more American and evolving toward English, each part of the sip is very distinct.  As the sip progresses the flavors overlap.  Each element is distinct, but each is too strong to be paired together.  The flavors eventually combine to yield an aftertaste that is a little hoppy, a little malty and totally stale.

If this pale ale was either fruity or malty for the duration, it would be a fine pale ale.  The fruity sweetness and malty creaminess are both very good in this beer, but they should operate alone.  Together they just don’t blend well.

Overall                 6/10
Color                    5
Thickness            7
Hops/Malt          7
ABV                       5.2%

Bell’s Octoberfest

Well, it didn’t take long to get to my next Oktoberfest.  Bell’s Octoberfest is much subtler than the Saranac version, with a more even malt component.  The malt is noticeable from the beginning and continues smoothly through the finish, becoming just a touch heavier at the back end, but not enough to make it not smooth.  This beer also tastes lighter than it actually is.  The mouthfeel isn’t very heavy to begin with, but the flavor makes it seem even lighter.  The back end does leave a slight, lingering aftertaste and while it’s not enough to weigh you down, it’s still a little more than desired and tastes a little stale. This gets old after a while and by the end of each beer you get tired of it. The back end staleness begins to accumulate and becomes the predominant flavor.  I could see myself having Bell’s Octoberfest a few more times because the malt flavor is mild and enjoyable for the majority of the beer, but eventually the malt staleness on the back end is overwhelming.

Overall                 7/10
Color                    6
Thickness            6
Hops/Malt          7
ABV                       5.5%

Two Hearted Ale

I wish I had a lot to say about Two Hearted Ale, because it’s a great American IPA, but it’s so simple it doesn’t take much to describe it.  Put out by Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, Mich., Two Hearted Ale gives you what you look for in an IPA.  It doesn’t offer anything other than hops, is light in color and mouthfeel, and is very refreshing.  Because it uses American hops it has a distinct citrusy aroma and flavor, very comparable to New Belgium’s Ranger IPA (which was previously reviewed), just less.  It has a very nice natural sweetness that’s enough to satisfy any hop craving, yet not too much to overpower. Although it is smooth overall, I wish it had a little smoother finish.  Otherwise it’s just about perfect.  If you’re looking for a great IPA, this is one to try.  Hops are the focal point, which they should be, and although the beer doesn’t try to do too much, it’s simplicity is what makes it effective.  I could drink this any day and be satisfied, and whether you’re new to IPAs or a fan already, you’ll be pleased.

Overall                 9/10
Color                    4
Thickness            3
Hops/Malt          2
ABV                       7.0%

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