Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bell's Two Hearted Ale

“The train went on up the track out of sight, around one of the hills of burnt timber.”

Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, named  after a river in Michigan, might also be familar as the title of the two-part final story* in Hemingway’s 1925 collection, In Our Time. This wonderful IPA is touted by the brewery as being just the thing for trips to Michigan’s upper peninsula. However, most of us will likely find it perfect for trips to the den, sofa, or favorite bar stool.

Two Hearted Ale scores a perfect 100 overall, as well as 100 by style, on Currently available in only 17 US states (as well as D.C,, the UK, and one bar in Sweden), it is the third-highest rated IPA on RateBeer’s Best Beers of 2011, just a few ticks lower than AleSmith IPA and Ballast Point Sculpin.

Its mild orange color flickers to a clear pale yellow when held up to the light. A substantial initial carbonation gives it about an inch of foam, which eventually settles into a steady stream of large, slowly rising bubbles, creating a very light lacing on the glass. The first takes on the aroma seem pungent, extremely floral, piney, and citrusy as well.

Initial sips produce a fairly strong hop shock to the sides of the tongue. As it descends toward the back of the palate, a distinct and pleasant malty sweetness emerges, and it carries a very long tail of determined but balanced bitterness.

This is clearly one of the best American-style IPAs, with plenty of bittering -- from Centennial hops alone -- to satisfy any hophead. However, it is not overdone, unlike several popular West-coast hop-bomb ales. It is subtle, yet displays the effortlessness of a strong trout slowly swimming in place against a swift current. A beautiful beer, indeed.

 “He looked back. The river just showed through the trees. There were plenty of days coming when he could fish the swamp.”

* “Big Two-Hearted River”

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