David Brockington's Tasting Notebook

Bell's Special Double Cream Stout



Kalmazoo Brewing Company
315 East Kalamazoo Ave.
Kalamazoo, Michigan
(616) 382-2338

This review marks my return to this business following a four-month hiatus. During the summer months I plan to plow through as many of my back notes as possible, hopefully informing rfdb readers as well as visitors to my little corner of The Brewery.

Initial Impressions:

Bells has an excellent reputation as a brewer of distinctive beers in an era when the trend in the craft-brewing industry seems to be motivated more and more by the bottom line. We live with the legacy created when accountants ran breweries rather than brewers: fewer and blander beers aimed at offending as few people as possible (resulting in, to paraphrase Jackson, little to excite anybody.) The craft beer movement was supposed to offer an alternative to this by producing distinctive beers covering a wide variety of styles. Unfortunately, from my vantage in the Pacific Northwest, this goal seems to have been lost by many of the early pioneers. Really, how many variations of Widmer Hefe-Weizen Pyramid Apricot Ale, or Saxer Lemon Lager do we really need?

A respite from my marketing-based gloom is found in the occasional new brewery established by visionaries and romantics dedicated to the beer that they create rather than the ability to move larger and larger quantities of "product," or in those existing breweries that have become financially stable and continue to brew inspired beers. Bells falls into this category.

Late last summer an internet acquaintance (and Political Scientist ending a one-year appointment to the University of Michigan) initiated a correspondence with me, one result being a box of Kalamazoo beer being shipped to my house. Having tried Bell's once before, I knew that they were good. I eagerly consumed most of the beer in the box over the next week or so, taking notes on each one.

The Double Cream Stout poured unsurprisingly opaque black in my glass, yielding a thick, rich deep-tan head that remained during the entire tasting experience.

Nose:

This beer has an incredible aroma. A deep malty aroma suggests a flavor profile highlighted by malty flavors. Chocolate notes add a very nice sophisticating presence to the bouquet.

Flavor:

The profile of this beer is not as malty-thick as the aroma would predict. The distinct flavor of chocolate malt opens up the tasting experience, and carries the beer through a slight roastiness (roasted barley perhaps?) and a lingering hop bitterness.

Final Analysis:

A creamy stout, as the name would suggest. What made this beer especially enjoyable was its distinctive maltiness, which was not crowded by patent astringency, an overreliance on roasted barley, or an eager use of hopping. This is an excellent interpretation of cream stout, and simply a distinctive, enjoyable pint.

Rating: ****

(5-star scale)
Copyright 1996 by David Brockington, all rights reserved; Seattle, USA
Comments? Fire off some email: dbrock@u.washington.edu
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