By: Christine Terrisse

 

My head-first dive into the craft beer world just happened to coincide with the California arrival of Bell’s. From the moment my husband Dan, (a very nice fellow who is supposedly kicking a Miller High Life habit) came home with a Bell’s Porter, it has become one of our favorite beers.

Until last year, California devotees of Bell’s Brewery, who make only bottle conditioned unfiltered brews (save for their lager) had to imbibe out-of-state. The Kalamazoo craft pioneers first arrived in San Diego, then this February made its way to L.A.

“Mostly what I love about Bell’s is everything across the board; every brand that we have in our portfolio, is just a well-rounded, well-balanced beer,” says Matt Oleskiewicz. Matt is the Southern California Field Representative for Michigan-based Bell’s Brewery. Tonight, he is hosting the Bell’s Brewery Takeover at Sunset Beer Co. –part of the 7th annual L.A. Beer Week, which took place June 20-28th.

The tasting room at Sunset Beer Co. featured six Bell’s brews on tap. Swag was afoot, a beer tour was Draft List Bell's Tap Takeover Sunset Beer Co.visiting, and Matt, the young, well-trained company rep was on hand to mingle and answer questions.

“And what I think makes us stand out and unique here in California is that especially in L.A., it’s such an extreme beer market: everybody wants that like, next extreme beer. 10% alcohol, eighteen different hops, like 145 IBU’s…it’s going to destroy your mouth. Whereas, we are just like, ‘No, we’re going to make Two-Hearted, it’s going to be 7%, we are going to use one hop and it’s going to be the best.’”

The “Two-Hearted” Matt is referring to is the Two-Hearted Ale, one of Bell’s flagship beers and probably, next to the light summer wheat, Oberon, one of its most popular.

Founded by Larry Bell as a homebrewing shop in 1983, Bell’s has been selling beer since 1985. It became one of the most respected craft breweries in the nation. To this day, it keeps a relentless growth. Recent developments include the opening of a 200-barrel brewhouse, the renovation of their eccentric cafe, and ownership of an 80-acre farm–where they grow 2-row barley used in seasonal ales.

“So, how did you get started in the beer industry?” I ask Matt, sipping my Oberon.

“I was your average college drinker, Natty Light, and all that stuff,” he says. “I got a job at a craft beer bar in D.C. and I’ll never forget–the first craft beer I had was the Dogfish Head 60 Minute, and then I never looked back from that. And then D.C. was a huge market for Bell’s and I don’t know, I was always kind of mystified by the company; just how popular they were in D.C. and the kind of following they had. I’ve gone through more training for Bell’s that makes me just a smarter person about beer in general. I’ve gone through training on how to you drink with your eyes and nose before actually taking a sip of beer. I never knew that before I started working for Bell’s.”

For more on how Bell’s Brewery went from a small homebrewing shop to one of the biggest players on the national craft scene:

Larry Bell 2008 Interview with Kalamabrew

 

Tasting Notes

In my opinion, Bell’s Porter is the standout. I find it to be a perfect balance of roast flavor, chocolate notes and most of all, the mouthfeel–again, balanced, riding the line between carbonated and creamy.

If you are craving an intense yet balanced hop taste and a frothy head, try the Two-Hearted Ale, an IPA named after a short story by Ernest Hemingway.

Oberon is a refreshing wheat with a distinct citrus profile. I’ve tasted more exciting wheats, but it’s a solid tasty take.

 

Check out Bell’s Brewery at http://www.bellsbeer.com/index.php.