Sometimes you have to go south to go north, which was the case this week as I traveled to the Florida panhandle with my family for a much-needed vacation. 800 miles away in the Deep South I found one of Michigan’s finest beers – Bell’s Two Hearted Ale.
On the way to the beach we stopped at Hop City in Birmingham, Ala. Being the beer geek that I am, I had researched the best beer destinations along our route. Hop City was far and away the most talked about beer store I could find, and it was just a short detour off the interstate.
Hop City is a craft beer drinker’s nirvana. There is a massive selection of ales and lagers, all merchandised by style. The IPAs were together, as were the stouts, blondes, pales, etc. Stone (San Diego), Cigar City (Tampa), and Great Divide (Denver) were just a few of the great breweries available that we don’t have here in Fayetteville.
The store also stocks home brewing supplies, and – wait for it – growler fills and pints are available for purchase. Around 20 taps of craft beer are available for on-site or take-home consumption.
There were a whole bunch of people hanging out at the bar during my visit. Hop City looked like a pretty popular place for beer geeks in Birmingham. Who’s going to be the first person in Fayetteville to figure out this concept?
Now on to Bell’s…
I’ve heard a lot about Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, and was happy to see it at Hop City. You can’t find Bell’s in Fayetteville. You’ll have to make the short trip to the Macadoodles in Pineville, Mo. to get it. But for many people it’s worth the time and effort.
Bell’s is one of the nation’s best microbreweries, and Two Hearted Ale is considered by many to be the brewery’s best offering. Some even think it’s the best IPA in America. Needless to say it found its way into my shopping basket that day (a 4-pack of 16 oz. cans).
If you like pine needles and grapefruit in your IPA, you will love Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. It’s hopped with Centennial hops and nothing more, which leads to those forest and citrus characteristics.
But the hops are not overpowering by any means. The malt balances things superbly.
I know, I know – a lot of IPA reviews use the word “balanced.” It’s an overused term. But in the case of Two Hearted Ale it’s absolutely spot-on. This is the perfect union of pungent hop resin and malted grain.
Zymurgy magazine recently conducted a poll asking its readers to list their favorite commercially-available beers. Russian River’s Pliny the Elder – a perennial favorite – was first on the list, but Bell’s Two Hearted Ale was just behind in second place. This is high praise considering the special type of beer geek that comprises Zymurgy’s readership.
For the most part I like to write about beers made in Northwest Arkansas, or at the very least beers available in our area. Although I had to travel 800 miles to the Deep South to find my supply of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, you can make the short drive up I-49 to find yours. Cheers!