Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Best Brown Ale

Bell’s Brewery, Inc.
Galesburg, MI

Style: Brown Ale
ABV: 6.6%

Rings’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)


So I’m relatively new at this Dork-style review system, so before I start getting on my soapbox, I figured I’d better start with a few brews that I know I enjoy. As I get going, many of you may find my critiques a bit harsh and my ratings low. A “five mug” brew will be tough to come by for me.

So, while this is a labor of love, I wanted to explain a few of my prejudices up front. As a German weaned guy (a “German wiener?”), I’m not personally into fruit or spices. Nor am I into beers that are overly hopped, just for the sake of needlessly driving up IBUs as if it’s some sort of contest. I can appreciate those beers, but they’re not my personal thing. I look for balance, subtlety, creativity, consistency, and cleanliness of flavor.

In the big picture, isn’t this the purpose in craft beer? To find a taste and an experience that you truly enjoy? Much like the perfect golf shot or hitting the sweet spot on the barrel of the bat, a special brew is a moment to be savored, because it’s not something you get to experience every time out.

Anyway, for my first little matter of opinion, I cracked a Bell’s Best Brown, from the former Kalamazoo Brewing Company.

Most people know this one for the fact that there’s an owl on the label and that it’s a winter seasonal, the opposite of Oberon (Solson, to those of us who remember), Bell’s top selling summer wheat.

Best Brown is an “Amer-English” brown ale with a full and balanced body. It pours relatively heavy, bright-brown in color, with a nice, white chocolate head that lingers a bit on the glass. Served properly between 45°-55°, it opens with a maple, brown-sugary nose and sweet maltiness that rolls into a full mouthfeel. As it goes down, there’s a slight hoppy bite on the finish to balance and clean up the lingering sweetness. The balance is exceptional.

It goes well with spicy foods, although it can get a little filling with a large meal. As a session beer, it can also get a bit sweet over time, although serving it a bit colder can help.

While Best Brown is, for some reason, not as popular as the Winter White or Two Hearted over the winter monthsand not even in the ballpark of Oberon, in terms of sales—it remains one of Bell’s finest and most consistent offerings and is one of my personal favorites among their lineup.

I’d give it a personal four-and-a-half mugs, if I could, but will settle for an even four on the Dork Scale.

Reviewed by Rings on March 14, 2010.
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