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Magical Mystery Pour #10: Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale

The second beer chosen for us by The Beer Nut (@thebeernut) is Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale (7% ABV) from Michigan, USA. We bought it from Beer Gonzo at £3.70 per 330ml bottle.

Magical Mystery Pour logo.We were vaguely aware of having heard of this beer but pointedly didn’t look it up before tasting to avoid skewing our judgement any more than necessary.

On opening the bottle, we were treated to a wonderful fruity, flowery aroma, like something on the air in an sub-tropical ornamental garden. It looked beautiful in the glass, glowing orange with a rock-steady head of whipped-white foam. Altogether appetising.

The head on a glass of beer.

The first taste elicited involuntary expressions of delight: Ooo, cor, blimey, phwoar! Which we guess answers the fundamental binary question about whether we liked it or not. It took us back to a decade ago, experiencing absolute delight as we tried one American IPA after another at The Rake in London’s Borough Market, marvelling at beers that seemed heavier, richer, sweeter, more bitter and more intense than anything we could find on draught in our local pub.

Close-up the aroma suggested not flowers and fresh fruit but pipe tobacco and boiling marmalade. There was something old-fashioned about the whole package, which brought to mind a historical recreation we’ve enjoyed a lot on more than one occasion, Cluster’s Last Stand.

The bitterness seemed high compared to some similar beers we’ve had, a sort of drying blast over the tongue at the end of each dip, but it conveyed a sense of solid maturity rather than showboating X-TREME-ness.

Another beer that we thought of was Fuller’s Vintage Ale — an odd leap, perhaps, but there you go — which led us to a conclusion: Two-Hearted is like an English bitter boiled down to concentrate. We know that Gary Gillman (blogger and sometimes commenter here) and Nick (mostly on Twitter) are in the habit of letting down packaged beer to recreate the effect of cask ale so decided to follow their lead and dilute a sample of Two-Hearted 50/50 with tap water. This was revelatory, even though it didn’t taste great in its own right: reduced in intensity, it did indeed resemble, say, Young’s Bitter, or Harvey’s Armada IPA.

We were very impressed with this beer and would drink it again. It’s not cheap but it’s not outrageously expensive either and we couldn’t think of many British beers that provide this particular kind of jammy, chewy, juiciness at a lower price. (Suggestions welcome, of course, but think orange, marmalade and toffee rather than mango Champagne.)

Tasting done, we looked it up, and found felt slightly embarrassed not to have tried it before: it’s regarded as a classic by many and (obviously) some people think it is over-hyped. It’s rated as world class by Beer Advocate (disclosure: we’ve done paid work for BA magazine) and has a perfect 100 high score on RateBeer.

Reviews on both sites talk about pineapple, mango, citrus, passion fruit, pine and all that American-hop baggage, none of which we picked up — it’s as if they were describing a different beer. That made us wonder if the journey across the Atlantic, perhaps via mainland Europe, and six months in the bottle (ours was packaged in January) had taken the edges off this apparently legendary beer in a way that just happened to really work for us.

Yes, that’s right: our new favourite beer style is Staled Warehouse IPA™.

Pleasingly, The Beer Nut’s own tasting notes from 2011 seem to match ours. (This is a strangely rare occurrence.)

7 replies on “Magical Mystery Pour #10: Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale”

I had no idea it was available in the UK until I was scrolling through Beer Gonzo but I figured it’s one of those beers that every commentator should have tried at some point. Glad you enjoyed.

It’s an odd irony that a style supposedly designed to age and withstand a long journey is now so capricious after even a few weeks. I would say no American IPA is as its brewer intended at older than 60 days; some start to slide after 14.

But I’m glad you enjoyed this one nonetheless. Two Hearted is a standard bearer, and freely available over here (thankfully at substantially less than £3.70 a go!).

Very interesting, this beer is certainly a classic but it does generally have the gone troppo smell and tastes here apparently missing in this sample. On the other hand, at 7% abv and 6 months storage as you said, it probably is much closer to a shipped IPA than the fruit bombs which have become so popular. In fact the English originals of the 1800s may have been similar, toffee from all-malt (unless very attenuated but this varied), a marmelade quality (Fuller can have that), good bitterness from high hop levels then, with any aroma and flowers being carried off by the trade winds..

Try dilution with a fresh yeasty beer (English or American), or if it’s weak enough, just swirl the glass to get most of the carbonation out. Many of these are indistinguishable from cask beer. I’ve found water with calcium carbonate works very well provided no salts in it. That Italian one in the blue, wasp-waisted bottle, say, can’t recall name.. It’s amazing what “Burton” water can do for beer provided (IMO) we keep DMS out of it. 🙂

Gary

Bell’s Two Hearted is one of my favorite beers! So glad you guys got your hands on a bottle.

I drank it all the time when I lived in Florida, but here in Utah there are very restrictive alcohol laws and Bell’s does not distribute. Bummer.

Good Lord. Someone is making a wee killing. I passed on this excellent widely available beer at the last grocery before the US-Canadian border priced at $11 USD a six pack. You seem to have paid about $30 a six. I bought a mix twelve by the way – the one from Smuttynose with that racy late 1940s picture of Ms Dietrech on it. It was like I had no self control. But it was because there was also their brown ale in it. The one I like with the nice dog on the label.

More likely a long chain of middle men are each making a small killing, or possibly just a slight maiming.

Shouldn’t be but might well be. I worked in import and export a ways back. Three layering each taking $1 USD a bottle to shuffle paper there’s still room. Lovely beer but there must be UK comparables for half that. What is it called when the chase and price aren’t white whales but grocery store common place beers like this? Netting cod?

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