They say necessity is the mother of invention. That's especially true of beer. We all need it, and, in fact, life without it hardly seems worth living. British colonists in India knew this truth all too well.
In the olden days before refrigeration, beer exported from England to India would often arrive having skunked or been spoiled by bacteria. As it happens, hops are a natural deterrent to microbes that are fatal to beer. So to remedy this problem and to ensure safe, drinkable supplies of beer to hot, thirsty and increasingly desperate colonists, an ale was crafted with a high alcohol and hop content. India Pale Ale (IPA) was born, and the world would never be the same. Hops may well have been recruited as a preservative, but they also lend a beer a very particular flavor and aroma. The bitter IPA proved a smashing, refreshing success, probably to the chagrin of the native Indians. Who knows? Without IPA, those pesky colonists might have packed up and called it a day. But as this journal entry is devolving quickly into post colonialism, I'll stay on point. Today, in the refrigerated age, some 200 years later, IPA is alive and well, as evidenced by the latest entry in the McBone Beer Journal: Two Hearted Ale.
Like any good brewer, Larry Bell began his enterprise by crafting small batches of beer in a soup kettle. Today Bell's Brewery is a slightly larger operation--exporting to 15 states and in 19 varieties of which Two Hearted Ale is among the most popular. Right now I have a thirst to rival any British colonist, so let's hop to it, shall we?*
I think it best to start with the advantages, and they are many. "Two Hearted" Ale is an obvious reference to the Two Hearted River and, of course, Ernest Hemingway's famous short story. What's more, a bass graces the label. I get it: Michigan, the outdoors, rivers, fishing, Hemingway--these are lofty aims, and what remains is to see if the beer lives up to the premise. Quaking with enthusiasm, I pop the cap.
Two Hearted Ale pours into lovely 1/4 inch head that remains for the duration of the drinking experience. The color, a deep orange, tells me that this is no ordinary IPA. All at once I am beguiled by the distinctly hoppy citrus and floral notes rising to greet me, but I'm not one to waste many words on the nose. The first sip (gulp) does not disappoint. In fact, after a few satisfying swallows, I realize that I'm in the presence of beer excellence. Not greatness, mind you, but excellence. Refreshing, as an IPA should be. Bitter, but just so. Hoppy, but not so aggressively hoppy that the warmer malt undertones are subdued. A very satisfying smack of alcohol, but, again, not obnoxiously so. This is a flavorful, complex and well-balanced beer that I recommend on a hot day or any day whatsoever. I'm sure it must be great with bass, especially one you've just caught yourself.
Two Hearted Ale is well worth the slightly higher price tag (around $8.95 in Indiana) and certainly proves worthy of the label IPA and, indeed, the memory of Hemingway himself.
Rating: 4.5 McBones.
*I apologize and promise to never use another pun.