11/22/15: Bell's Brewery's Best Brown Ale

1:43 PM

What grabbed me most about this beer the first time I saw it was its label. The owl, the mossy tree branches, the sweeping red and orange leaves. I'm someone who loves autumn. It gets under my skin and into my bones. Without knowing what experience I'd find in the bottle's contents, I could tell from the label alone that it'd wrap me up in fall.

Now that I've had a bottle (and then many more), I am able to judge whether that initial impression of Bell's' Best Brown Ale was accurate. This means that, yes, I have had this beer before. This is not a fist-time experience for me. But, do not let that lessen the value of my discussion in your eyes. You may be surprised by what I have to say (or, you might not).

According the the Oberon review I posted over three months ago (!? The last few months have been a blur to me), Larry Bell has been involved with brewing beer, commercially, since 1985. His legacy, which was originally simply a store to supply homebrewing materials, is now one the most easily recognizable craft breweries in the United States (or, at least, the midwest).

I wish I knew how long Bell's has been brewing Best Brown. Did Larry start brewing it early on in his career? I don't know (although I'm willing to bet it came around in the mid- to late-nineties [a guess which is, by the way, an utter shot in the dark]). The official Best Brown Ale page tells me that the ale has an ABV of 5.8%, has caramel and cocoa notes, and is (quite obviously) the brewery's fall seasonal. Nothing about a first batch. Dang.

Admittedly, I have a cold right now. However, I don't get either the cocoa or caramel from the aroma. In fact, I've never gotten these from the aroma, cold or no. It's mostly maltiness, with the faintest hint of nuts. It's nice and autumnal, and it gets six whiffs from Purrl, so she must enjoy it.

There's caramel present in the ale's flavor, and definitely a punch of cocoa in the aftertaste. But I think the malt and nuttiness are most present here. Overall, its an expertly crafted flavor. I find a trace of freshly-cracked hazelnut hanging around in my mouth after the cocoa fades.

The ale is unexpectedly fizzy. It foams up in my mouth, and goes down in a rush of tiny bubbles. The carbonation is what you'd find in lemon-lime soda. It's not a bad thing--far from it, actually--but it may catch first-time drinkers off-guard.

Best Brown Ale is the perfect beer to drink on a late-November day (like today, oddly enough). In fact, that's exactly what I find myself thinking about when I have a bottle of it in-hand. For the last three or four years, I've gone on a cabining trip in the fall. While this year's trip took place in October, I usually find myself sequestered away in the Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio just before Thanksgiving. The air is crisp there and the last yet-to-fall leaves are desperately clinging to the trees. I go hiking just to soak up the autumness of it all.

Bell's Brewery's autumn seasonal is great. Really, really great. At ten bucks a six-pack, it's a solid steal. As such, the ale nets a 9.5/10 from me and is, without question, my favorite Bell's beer. Best Brown Ale, indeed.

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