Beer Review 0325: Bell’s Smitten Golden Rye Ale

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Well, there seems to be a pattern going on when it comes to spring beers: a lot of breweries are using this time of year to release a beer brewed with rye, an adjunct to beer, but a good adjunct.

Bell’s Brewery (Comstock, Michigan) fashions Smitten Golden Rye Ale as a beer that will “help brighten those gray winter days and help warm your heart.” The recipe for the beer comes from one of Larry Bell’s (the founder) oldest recipes, and the brew began life as part of a series of rye beers at their Eccentric Cafe.

At 6% ABV (alcohol by volume), Smitten uses rye malt and Pacific Northwest hops. It’s release marks the first time Bell’s has added a regular bottle to its lineup since 2010, when Oarsman Ale went year-round (83 points for Oarsman).

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Pouring issued a bright white, average size head that had good retention and a soapy texture. The beer was just as described on the bottle — golden in color, with a hazy body that had a light amount of sediment floating around. The lacing was very nice, as is typical for most rye beers, and some thick patches were left clinging to the glass.

First thing on the nose were the hops, and Smitten features a nice complex hop aroma: lots of citrus, especially lemon and orange, are up front, coupled with background players of pine and grapefruit. The rye is there, too; it gives the beer a subtle spicy/peppery kick that when combined with the hops, becomes almost like dish soap. There’s a fair amount of grain, and the scent is quite astringent. Nice and inviting.

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On the taste, this Pale Ale is quite hoppy on the initial sip, offering up flavors of lemon and grapefruit rind. It gives way quickly to an ample dosage of rye malt, which brings on some bitterness and a peppery spice. The finish starts out mildly bitter and the rye dries out the palate, leading to more complex hop flavors of grapefruit flesh, lemon, and grass. I noticed the more I sipped, the more bitter this beer got — it was never overwhelming, but while I marked ‘light’ on my tasting sheet for bitterness, by the end of my glass, it was more like ‘moderate.’ Smitten is medium-bodied, with a medium mouthfeel that is creamy when swished.

Overall, this is a solid, no-frills offering from Bell’s. The hop treatment here is nice, and the rye indeed adds to the quality of the beer instead of being an annoying distraction. I can definitely see this being a friendly six-pack for the winter thaw. Check it out if you can.

Bell’s Smitten Golden Rye Ale, 92 points. Price: $1.99 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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