Beer Review 0061: Bell’s Amber Ale

Yes, we just reviewed a Bell’s beer (Best Brown Ale) three brews ago, but we need to have more of Bell’s Brewery on this website. This will be the last one for a while, I promise.

Founded in 1983 by Larry Bell in Kalamazoo, Michigan, this brewery was originally a store that sold brewing supplies. They still sell the same supplies today, enabling amateur brewers to craft something great of their own. (Very cool.)

Bell’s became the first brewpub in Michigan, and today the company is big enough to require two separate brewing facilities. Amber Ale is the key beer in the Bell’s portfolio, which is made up of mostly seasonal beverages. They fashion this beer as a drink that would work well as a jumping point into other styles, or just tasty in its own right.

I’m not sure how recent, but this beer has underwent a bottle makeover. The old bottle had a maroon label that featured a bird; the new labels have a summertime scene from the Great Lakes region, featuring mostly blues and greens. It’s a well designed bottle, and the reason I chose to review this beer was simply because I thought the bottle was visually appealing.

Outside looks aside, the appearance of the beer is a golden amber with some bright orange highlights. The head was large and long lasting, creamy in texture, which eventually gave way to some tremendous lacing as I drank. Now, I know lacing isn’t necessarily the end-all be-all of the finer points of beer, but I believe if you’ve got good lacing, your chances of having a high quality drink improve by at least half. The body was hazy and choked with large particles of sediment floating throughout, which provided the glowing orange highlights. A superb looking brew.

On the aromatics end, I found some excellent balance but an overall subdued batch of scents. The hops were present in equal amount to malts; I found both citrus and caramel, with some lingering milk chocolate and a doughy, bread like quality to round things out. The balance was nice, especially for an Amber Ale, but I thought the whole thing was too muted.

The taste starts out with a light unsweetened tea-like character, followed by a transition to a more medium-bodied, creamy and bready flavor. The finish is more bread and some caramel, sweet as it goes down, a touch bitter as it finishes. The creamy texture lends itself to a slight flavor of butter.

What we have here with Bell’s Amber Ale is a departure from what I’ve found other Amber Ales to be, and that’s an uneven tipping point toward the malt end. This is a beer that’s not in your face, but what is here is very pleasant and perfectly quaffable. It’s just plain good, and if this is the key beer in your portfolio of offering, you’re barking up the right tree.

With cold weather well on the way, this is nice to drink and savor those very last hints of this unseasonably warm autumn. (At least here in North Carolina.)

Bell’s Amber Ale, 90 points. Price: $1.99 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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