Coming it at second place on the 2015 American Homebrewers Association list of best beers in America and generally revered, Bell’s Two Hearted Ale doesn’t really require much of a defense in terms of its classic-ness as an American IPA. And happily, spending my summer in Wisconsin means that it’s available relatively fresh.
Like I’ve mentioned before, this series is based on my having lived for three years in the relative beer isolation of Bolivia and returning to indulge in all those beers whose praises I’d read from afar and had to imagine through tasting notes, which is at most the faint shadow of a real encounter. So does all the acclaim play out?
Poured out, Two Hearted Ale is a light copper and has a lovely head. Its very low carbonation makes it supremely easy to drink, and it’s a combination of woody and juicy hops. This clearly is not a straightforward juicy banger because there’s much more going on. As expected, it’s sweeter than all these session IPAs and lighter pale ales I’ve been enjoying lately, and the bitterness really lingers. In my mouth it seems all perfectly aligned between the sensations of bitter and juicy hops and sweet malt to fill in the gaps. I particularly enjoy how the hops become spicier the further I get into this beer. And at the very end the taste of pomelo pith carries on.
This is delicious.
But if I’m honest, I’m a tad surprised this is the second best beer in America according to the readers of Zymurgy magazine. It makes me wonder if there must truly be a lot of sub-par IPAs out there given how much this is adored. I mean, is this it? Is this the ceiling for the second-best beer in America?*
Huh. I guess I was expecting some kind of epiphany or revelation and while Two Hearted was great, it certainly was not that kind of great.
*Realistically, when you look at that list, it’s probably just the second best widely-distributed beer in America, although Pliny the Elder is in essence, the opposite of widely-distributed. Buy everything with Russian River’s name on it probably benefits from some fairly significatnt inflation by primed expectation. So then, controlling for the RR name/expectation boost, who knows, Two Hearted might be the best beer on this list. Whaaaat?!
Whatever, who cares? It was a great IPA. I just would have voted differently. Each to their own.