Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bell's Week: Bell's Pale Ale

Thanks to the pioneering efforts of Sierra Nevada, who crafted the quintessential modern American beer with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, every craft brewer needs a pale ale in their roster. Bell's Brewery is no exception.

Nothing wrong with that. Pale ales tend to be tasty but drinkable. And this one fits the bill.

The sharp bitterness here is more aggressive than most pale ales, a notch above the aforementioned American standard set by Sierra Nevada (which, to the rest of the world, borders on an IPA). Unlike that classic Sierra brew, however, the hops aren't full of pine forest. Here they're laden with citrus notes and a vague aroma of, errr, cat piss

Which sounds terrible, I know, but it's not meant to be negative! It's just that the smell is sharp, acidic, and faintly medicinal. It's actually not unusual to hear some hops described that way -- the popular Simcoe hops are often described that way, and people love Simcoe-hopped beers -- it's just, well, that's the first thing that springs to mind.

That doesn't make Bell's pale ale bad. I'd say it's quite good. It's a tasty brew. I'd also say, however, that it borders on ordinary. It's not a hoppy enough monster to be a good IPA (but it's close), and it's not lovely and drinkable enough to be a session pale ale (it's not even close). It's just ... a decent craft beer.

Again, nothing wrong with that. But also nothing to write home about.

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