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Brewing Birds: Bell’s Amber Ale

January 21, 2011

New I and the Bird #142 at Birds o’ the Morning.


I’ll start out by saying I generally don’t like Amber Ales.  The style always tastes watery to me with a too sweet aftertaste that doesn’t appeal to my hops heavy palate.  There’s no accounting for taste, I guess, but it does mean that I was probably pre-disposed not to like this beer, as even at its best, I’ve always found the style wanting.  But if this series was titled “Beers I like regardless of whether the bottles have birds on them or not”, not only would that make the URL comically unwieldy, but wouldn’t apply to a bird blog in anyway possible.  For the record though, that’s a discussion I’m happy to have in person for the price of a pint.

I’ve always been happy with Bell’s Brewery though, the Kalamazoo, Michigan, outfit that makes some excellent beers (the Two-Hearted Ale is particularly nice, though less ornithologically accurate) and I went into this with an open mind.  Not least of which because of the handsome Great Blue Heron gracing the label.  What that has to do with Amber Ales is unclear, but if there’s ever a bad time for a decorative heron I’ve certainly never seen it.  But on to the beer!

The pour created a hefty full two fingers of head and impressive carbonation.  Color was more orange than red, and the smell was flowery with citric notes, entirely unexpected and suggested that I was wrong to write this beer off so quickly.  As I drank I noted none of the unpleasant aspects of Amber Ales that usually have me reaching for something different; the sort of plain Amber Ale I found in the Red Tail Ale I looked at a couple months back, for instance.  It was sweet, as expected, but well balanced such that the grainy citric smell manifested in a really great tasting beer with none of the lingering stale aftertaste I half expected given my previous experiences with the style.  In fact, it was easily one of the best examples of an Amber Ale I’d ever had, and one I wouldn’t hesitate to order if I saw it on a menu.  That’s saying something for this hops-head.

So this beer comes highly Drinking Bird approved.  Well done, Bell’s Brewery!  Now to just color in that Heron just a tad.

  1. January 21, 2011 8:54 am

    And Kalamazoo
    has nice birding, too!

    “Rhime thee or I eat thee” as we say in German.

  2. January 21, 2011 12:17 pm

    I’m not very familiar with their amber ale, but Bell’s is indeed generally quite good.


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