Beer Review 0058: Bell’s Best Brown Ale

With the exception of Two Hearted Ale, beers from Bell’s Brewery have been unfortunately absent from this website. We’re about to try and fix that.

Founded by Larry Bell in Kalamazoo, Michigan when he opened a brewing supply shop in 1983, today Bell’s has two separate brewing facilities and a brewpub. They continue to embrace the amateur brewer by still selling all the appropriate supplies one needs to craft an awesome batch of beer at home.

Most of Bell’s beers are seasonal, and Best Brown Ale falls into the fall/winter category. It’s developed with a malt body that has cool weather in mind, meant to warm you up but not overwhelm you like other high alcohol (this one is 5.8% alcohol by volume) or harshly malted beers.

Now, we love brown dogs on brown ales. But this beer has an owl on it — a symbol of wisdom. A cool bottle, indeed.

From bottle to glass, we get a reddish brown beer that is topped with a small, long lasting head. The body is initially cloudy with lots of little bits of sediment floating around; that soon settles, leaving a liquid that makes for some good lacing, producing several thick spots on the sides of the glass.

Best Brown is very pungent. I could smell my glass from several feet away, and what was there was largely malts of the toasted variety. There’s some deep chocolate and caramel, with hints of dark fruit and toffee. It’s softly balanced by a nice floral hop aroma, making the aromatics nice for a style of beer that can tend to be one dimensional.

At first taste, the initial impression is of those toasty malts, followed by a transition into sweet caramel and fudge-like chocolate; as the beer was allowed to warm, I did notice the initial flavors started giving off some floral hop flavors, but very subtly. The finish was sweet and chocolate, which turned bitter before fading away.

Best Brown Ale? Well, it’s not the best Brown Ale I’ve ever had, it lacks in complexity, but it is a solid beer that is very enjoyable and will keep you warm on those crisp fall evenings.

Good brown ale continues to be put in bottles which feature animals on the label!

Bell’s Best Brown Ale, 87 points. Price: $8.99 US for six pack.


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