Boffo Beer Blog, Week 1. Bell’s Best Brown Ale

Earlier I was mentioning that reading more was one of my resolutions (again) for this year. Another resolution is to try a new beer every week. I’ll keep you filled in and reg”Ale”d here as we sip through the year.

Now, I’m not what most would consider much of a drinker – I’ve never even had a margarita and probably last had a bottle of rum or vodka around the time Nirvana were the new kids on the musical block – but I do like beer. Rare is a good dinner I have without having a cold one accompanying it; likewise sitting watching a baseball game isn’t quite a hit without a nice chilly lager or ale. I’ve always enjoyed trying different varieties, but like many others, I find myself in rather a routine of drinking one of the national brands that are readily available, cheap and pleasing enough but rather a boring quaff compared to the hundreds of different types of more flavorful and exotic labels on the supermarket shelf here (or the stylish LCBO ones back in Canada.)

So in 2020, I’m going to give a go to at least one new, less common beer each week and I’ll give you my thoughts on it, and maybe a little background. I’m no cicerone – I had to look up what the term is for a beer enthusiast in fact – but I know a good one when I taste one and can at least tell the difference between say a Coors Lite and a Guinness. So I hope my comments will be of interest to you and maybe get you to experiment a little more with your sudsy savorings.

So, this week I started with Bell’s Best Brown Ale. I mean, if you start something different why not start with the “best”?

I was drawn to it because I like dark ales. And I like owls, and the beer features a nice wintry picture of a Great Horned Owl on the can. I picked up a 12 ounce can, but I’ve seen it on shelves in bottles as well.

Well “hooo” is Bell’s Brewery? I found it is a Michigan microbrew founded in Kalamazoo in 1985, two years after founder Larry Bell had begun a home brew store. His first beer sold was a Great Lakes Ale he made up in a 15 gallon soup pot! By the early-’90s he had expanded and become the first Michigan brewery with an on-site pub and restaurant, all the better to enjoy his expanding range of beers. The company has expanded its brewery several times and offered a range of different beers through the years. One consistent thread for them seems to be that they prefer to offer darker, heavier beers, rather an anomaly in a state known for light, watery even, lagers. They’ve put out a bock, a stout, a white ale, and their “Two Hearted Ale”, a brew picked by the American Home Brewers Association as the Best Beer in the U.S.A. in 2017, not long after they’d expanded to Texas and other south-central states and topped 300 000 barrels a year in sales, or about 70 million bottles per year.

Best Brown Ale began in 1988 and is described by the brewery as a “smooth toasty brown ale with hints of caramel and cocoa.” they add it’s brewed with American hops and “best enjoyed with the changing of the seasons.”

So, I popped open the can and had it with a winter’s day lunch. The color is a nice, dark rich coppery color. It made a little bit of a head when I poured it, but not much. Certainly not a “fizzy” beer.

It tasted very good. At 5.8% alcohol, it’s a bit stronger than typical beers, but not a real strong one, and it tastes accordingly full-bodied. This packs a lot more of a kick than a multinational lager, but it’s not overpowering in taste nor does it seem overly heavy or likely to weigh you down. While it didn’t seem overly bubbly, it also didn’t go flat in the time it took me to eat lunch and enjoy it. The flavor was unmistakable as an ale – if you like your beers watery and light, this isn’t for you – but while it had a bit of a pleasant hoppy bitterness I could also detect a little, subtle sweet aftertaste. Maybe that’s the caramel they mention although to me it seemed more like a fruit flavor, although I’m not sure precisely what one.

All in all, Best Brown Ale may not be the best ale out there but is a good one. While I had it with a turkey sandwich and some veggies for lunch on a mild winter day, it seems like a perfect drink to go with a hearty stew or tasty roast dinner on a winter’s night, or maybe to be enjoyed with someone special in front of a roaring fire.

A good start to the project. I give it a 7/10 for flavor, 7/10 for strength and overall ,


4 hoot owls out of 5!

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