Beer Review 0278: Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout

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It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Bell’s beer. Luckily, when the weather turns cool, they offer quite a lineup of Stout beers, and this is a review of one of them.

Bell’s Brewery (Kalamazoo, Michigan) was founded in 1983 by Larry Bell, but the brewery was originally merely just a homebrew supply store. They still sell those homebrew supplies today, but they’re also a brewery…a really big brewery. It all started with a 15 gallon soup pot and nine employees, who bottled the beer by hand and delivered it to the market in the company’s first four years.

Today, Bell’s has a capacity of 500,000 barrels (that’s 15,500,000 gallons of beer) and recently opened another expansion facility in nearby Comstock, Michigan.

Special Double Cream Stout is brewed using 10 different varieties of malt, is dairy-free, and is meant to focus on the softer and cocoa notes of espresso. Available only in the winter, this beer is 6.1% ABV (alcohol by volume) and comes in six-packs.

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This beer pours with a very small, deep tan, and creamy head that quickly disappears into not even a thin cover — it just vanishes. The color of the beer itself is very dark brown, like milk chocolate brown, almost black, but not quite. The body is opaque but I could tell it was clear of particles and sediment as I poured. Lacing was good, leaving behind plenty of thin, creamy sheets on the side of my glass.

The aromatic picture here is very good if somewhat subdued; there’s plenty of sweet chocolate and coffee, some general roasted malts, and touches of caramel. I also detected a bit of nuttiness, and yes, this indeed does smell creamy. And the sweetness of the chocolate reminded me of cake batter.

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On the taste, there’s sweetness from the start, with some roasted malt. This beer never gets too sweet; in fact, I thought it was quite balanced — more on this in a moment. The beer opens up to present a touch of chocolate and sweet coffee, some darker espresso notes, and the finish is velvety with ample milk chocolate, coffee, and just the right amount of bitterness on the backend to add a richness to the palate. I found the brew to be medium-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel, and this only got better as it warmed.

Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout — even though it says “double” in the name, meaning Imperial strength, I guess — this is one of those regular stouts that is just as flavorful as a stronger cousin. The flavors here are simple, but the simplicity is solid, presenting layers of tasty chocolate and coffee goodness. This is a stout I would love to keep on hand at all times. I believe I’ll go tomorrow and invest in a six pack…

Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout, 91 points. Price: $2.49 for one twelve ounce bottle.

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