Tonight we’re going to consume the last of the Binny bunch, the final part of the Christmas gift card purchases from a few weeks ago. The beer in question is Bell’s Lager Beer, one of the recommendations that Wes, the Binny beer expert thrust into my arms that night. The beer comes in standard brown bottles with non-twist-off caps. The main label proudly proclaims that the beer is the “Lager of the Lakes.” Stands to reason, since the Bell’s Brewery is located on Comstock, Michigan, a few miles east of Kalamazoo.
As refreshingly crisp as a morning swim in a Great Lake, this brew is crafted with Pils and Munich malts. The pronounced hop character of this golden lager sparks thoughts of sandy beaches and rocky islands.
Well, I dunno about all that. I grew up in Chicago, about ten miles from Michigan and the islands that I saw all had water pumping stations on them. I’ll grant them the sandy beaches, though. Swim in Lake Michigan in the morning? Regardless of the season, it’d be really, really cold.
A couple of things raised a red flag for me with this beer. First, when describing a beer as crisp, it means hops. That little sting at the end of the swallow. Then to say that the beer has a pronounced hop character gave me the feeling that my tongue will go on a roller coaster ride. But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.
Saturday afternoon came with visitors, my #1 son and his buddy, who is a beer connoisseur as much as I am. He’s Educated Irish from the video review we did on Back&Tan and Half&Half. This Saturday we were going to start the process of brewing our own beer in the kitchen. It’s a story in itself, so I’ll save it for a different post. At one point there were six of us staring into the boiling pot of beery ingredients. The smells, oh the smells were divine.
The beer batch was set in a room temperature environ to begin fermenting and the guys left. After a bite to eat I noticed it approached beer drinking time. I put on my spats and reviewer’s transparent visor (think Data at a poker game on the Enterprise.) I grabbed the first Lager of the Lakes and began.
Into the glass. The beer came up with thick head but only about a half-inch’s worth. The liquid was a nice golden yellow as promised with lots of medium sized bubbles. I’m thinking that the head will go away soon, so I better get crackin’ here. The aroma was nice, reminding me of last night’s Old Style. A good beery scent pervaded through my nose hairs making me want to have a sip real soon. Like now.
As soon as the first sip went down, the hops attacked. The flavor of the beer is rather robust, but the hoppiness at the swallow was a little harsh right out of the gate. I thought that another ounce of hops in this recipe at the brewery would push this beer into the realm of a mild IPA. Instead of it reminding me of Old Style, it reminded me of the Eliot Ness beer from a liitle while ago. The beer is not really that bad, it’s just that, for me, the bitter end is a little much. Like getting a skin pinch or finding a piece of gristle in your Polish sausage or that cell phone ringing in the movie theater. Everything else was good, except for that.
By the time I hit the bottom of the first glassful, the head was still there and the hoppiness became less pronounced and more of the flavor became apparent. The flavor cavorts nicely with the taste buds all the time the liquid is in your mouth, but when you swallow, it’s like a swat to the ass. Tolerable but lingering. The hops are really apparent at the exhale after the swallow.
A few sips into the second beer and all of the flavors sort of came together. Perhaps it was the initial hop shock of the first sip of the first bottle that put me off, but down the road it came together. That begs the prerequisite for this beer: drink one of these before you have your first one of these. What does this mean? It took two beers before I started liking the taste. Maybe it’s more of a toleration factor than it is a liking. I’ll say that this beer is a unique taste experience over time.
If you like hoppy beers, by all means pick up a sixer. Just don’t expect your woman to like it. Wait. I take that back. See the WA-EO below. This isn’t so much a manly beer as it is a taste experience. Different at the other end of the taste spectrum.
Taste: C+ > A silk rope with a knot in the end.
Smoothness: C > A walk in the park with a pebble in your shoe.
Drinkability: C- > A 6K run all in your mouth.
Bang for the buck: > Unknown; lost receipt.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: Doesn’t smell too bad. (sip) A little lemony. (sip) Yeah. I kinda like that. (sip) It’s pretty smooth. It’s not bad at all. I like it. (Where is my wife and what have you done to her??!!)