One adjective I, and others, have used to describe myself is epicurean: “fond of or adapted to luxury or indulgence in sensual pleasures; having luxurious tastes or habits, esp. in eating and drinking.” That’s fair. I love rich, exquisite foods, and devote my fair share of energy and excitement to the prospect of dinnertime. It is also no surprise that I love fancy, elegant, rich beers: Belgian Tripels and Quadrupels, blended Lambics, whisky-barrel-aged Old Ales, Chocolate Stouts, Barleywine.
However, my love for rich, gourmet food and drink is overshadowed and underscored by my love for good food and drink — and good does not always, or even of necessity, mean rich or fancy: there is true ecstatic delight to be found in a platter of rustic farmhouse cheese, sausages, apples, and crackers (or even a bowl of lovingly-prepared potato soup) every bit as satisfying as a plate of coquilles St.-Jacques.
And thus also with beer. Sometimes the bourbon-aged cherry stout is not what one is after. Sometimes one seeks a pint that is…well, that’s just a pint. And so I offer to your consideration the Bell’s Brewery Best Brown Ale.
Here’s a beer that’s neither flashy, nor pretentious, nor arrogant, nor boastful, nor rude. It’s a classic English-style Brown Ale that doesn’t show off or speak with an affected accent. This is one for a windy autumn night. It’s also one for when you’re in a sessioning sort of mood: light enough to return to time and again, and congenial enough to never tire of. In the end, simplicity wins because simplicity is beautiful.
Appearance: It’s brown. It’s uncomplicated. It’s lovely in the glass. It has a warm copper glow that says, “Come, be my guest.” 4/5
Aroma: Autumnal. Rich, malty, toasty with a hint of molasses and treacle, and perhaps even mild marmalade is hiding out in there as well. Take a further breath and capture wet autumn leaves, moss, and laurel blossoms. 4.5/5
Taste: It’s beer. Everything the nose hinted at, plus a warming, comforting, easy-going sessionable taste with some nice hop notes turning up as well. This is a taste to associate with sociable evenings in front of a pub (or home ) fireplace…or in front of a nice roast beef. 4.5/5
Palate/Mouthfeel: At first, I was afraid it would be a mite too sticky and sweet on the palate. Then I had some food with it. Problem solved. Mouthfeel excellent. 4.5/5
Drinkability/Overall: Perfect, as far as a simple, uncomplicated ale is concerned. Odds are this beer won’t win any best-in-show awards. But at the end of the day, who wants to live with a high-maintenance groom-around-the-clock Borzoi? I’ll take the brown lab-collie-terrier mix any day. This is one to be admired and loved — not in spite of, but because of, its simplicity. 5/5