Not only is Bell’s Light Hearted IPA the latest edition to the Michigan brewery’s beloved Hearted series, but it’s got the stink of the über-trendy low-calorie beer fad all over it. Try as I might to review this beer on its own merits, that context is unignorable. When you slap that trout on a can of Bell’s, you’re building on a legacy bigger than any one label. But Light Hearted is not Two Hearted. Nor is it the sensational Double Two Hearted. It doesn’t aspire to be. It’s a backyard sipper that comes in 12-packs for a reason.
Lo-cal beers have taken a fair amount of grief for cosying up to macro beers, but take a look at this pint: It’s glorious. Not quite Yuengling brown, not quite Budweiser clear, it’s somewhere between the two with an oaty head that blows both away.
The pine and pith are present, as with any IPA, but in Light Hearted the flavors are not as prominent. It’s just not as robust and in-your-face as something with a full-calorie backbone. The Centennial and Galaxy are very restrained, popping up in a quick flare of grapefruit and dissipating just as fast.
Say hello to your new everyday beer.”
Light Hearted prizes balance above all, and “balance” is a beer industry term for “don’t worry, it’s not too bitter.” And it isn’t. Here, balance is a true achievement. Light Hearted is an even ride through an initial bright citrus push to a resinous malt finish. The body is extremely light, which almost feels wrong in the IPA category. But you’ll be thankful for that by the time you crack the second can.
Say hello to your new everyday beer. Light Hearted is a populist icon. It will be welcomed in any situation it enters. You can’t say that about any IPAs, and you can say that about even fewer lo-cal beers. And so, despite some forgivable shortcomings, this is a high water mark. Maybe not for Bell’s, but definitely for the category.