One of the remarkable aspects of today’s craft beer market is that there’s such variety and abundance of breweries out there and yet still so much sameness in their offerings. Go ahead and pick a random can or bottle off the shelf of your local beer shop. If it’s not a hazy IPA – and there’s a very good chance that it is – it’s probably something nearly as trendy, like a big, dessert-flavored stout or a light, refreshing sour beer with fruit in it. Sure, there’s been an admirable resurgence of lager brewing in the last few years, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that as far as craft beer goes, there’s been an overwhelming tendency toward the hoppy monotony of hazy IPAs – along with a handful of other fads – for the better part of a decade now.
So, it’s nice to take a step back from all that with a good, approachable, everyday beer like the American Amber Ale from Bell’s Brewery, Inc. of Comstock, Michigan. It’s an American craft beer from one of the nation’s most respected breweries (we reviewed their brown ale way back in 2017), so it certainly boasts a good dose of hops, but it’s not a crushing wallop of tropical fruit flavors like so many of today’s hazy IPAs. Instead, there’s a gentle hint of herbal, citrusy hops nicely balanced by rounded aromas of caramel and bready malt. The flavor is rich but easygoing, with a nice undercurrent of tea, apricot, and biscuit, with a dry, clean finish accented by a trace of marmalade. Bell’s Amber Ale isn’t anything flashy, but it’s an undeniably well-made and enjoyable beer that should appeal to even the most IPA-jaded drinkers.
And the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that adorns the label of Bell’s American Amber Ale is a perfect fit as a mascot for this modest, unassuming example of brewing excellence – a common and familiar giant of North American waterbirds that always manages to impress no matter how many times you see one. The label depicts a perfectly tranquil scene with a stately Great Blue stalking the shallows of some idyllic forest lake – exactly the view I’d want to have while enjoying this beer on some warm, summer evening at dusk.
Good birding and happy drinking!
Bell’s Brewery, Inc.: Amber Ale
Four out of five feathers (Excellent)