Saturday, April 7, 2018

Old Friends: Bell's Two Hearted Ale

When Mrs V and I do our weekly shop we generally go to the local Wegman's, which conveniently also has a pub, imaginatively called 'The Pub'. Often, with the groceries in the car, and the twins in need of a feed, we'll decide to have food and a pint there while we're in the vicinity. It was sitting in The Pub, and feeling thoroughly uninspired by the beer selection, that I plumped for the least uninspiring option, a beer I hadn't drunk in many, many years, Bell's Two Hearted Ale.

Once upon a time, in my early days of living in Virginia, it was one of my favourite beers, indeed I had four pints of it at Court Square Tavern the night before I was due in hospital to have a huge deep vein thrombosis removed from my leg (it was almost the length of my leg!). Being something of a non-IPA drinker these days, I expected to struggle my way through and be reminded of why IPAs are not my thing. I was wrong, I loved it, and so resolved to get a couple of bottles to include in my ongoing Old Friends series.

Last Saturday was a gloriously sunny day in central Virginia, the trees are starting to blossom, there are birds making their migratory way through the Commonwealth, and it was actually warm enough to sit outside on the deck with a beer. The brightness shone through the orange copper of the beer, the half inch of white foam seemed to glint in the sunlight.

The aroma was everything you would expect from an American IPA, pine resin and grapefruit up front and central, but there is also some spiciness in there too, with just enough malt character to remind you that you are smelling beer rather than industrial cleaning products. That upfront piney tang is right there in the drinking as well, coupled with a bracing pithy bitterness that scrapes away what toffee sweetness the malt lends the beer, leaving you wanting another mouthful.

Drinking Two Hearted is almost like time travel (and there is a such an obvious Whovian tie-in there), back to an era when beer tasted like beer. I know some folks don't like that phrase, but I have found that regardless of style, there is an almost meta flavour that is the essential interplay of malt and hops that is beer. This is an old school American style IPA, and it is all the better for it. No fripperies like fruit juice, no daft shit like only late hopping, this is a classic from the days when craft beer was actually about beer rather than envelope pushing and putting silly shit into mash tun, kettle, or fermentation vessel. That reason alone is why Two Hearted stands, and will continue to stand, the test of time, it is a proper beer.

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