For today’s beer aficionados, the humble brown ale is decidedly not on trend. While early craft beer stalwarts like Newcastle and Brooklyn Brown once served as a gateway for macro lager drinkers, you’re now more likely to see a dozen IPAs at a bar than a single brown ale tap. That’s a shame. During fall tailgating season, a malty brown ale such as Bell’s Best Brown Ale is both an excellent companion for cool temperatures and a versatile pairing partner.
The ale’s pale brown color, which isn’t as intense as others in this category, speaks to Bell’s light-handed approach. There’s a slight haze and a moderate head that lingers around the collar, with notably fast-rising carbonation. As with the brewery’s other offerings, the label design—an owl perched in a copper-hued forest—looks quite retro when compared to other brands.
If you were blindfolded, you’d probably mistake the citrus, pepper and clove aromas of Best Brown for those of a hefeweizen. As it warms up, some cinnamon, biscuit malt and baking spices reveal the ale’s true identity. There’s also a notable sweetness on the nose.
It’s tough to dislike, and it’s good enough to session without losing interest.”
There’s a surprising amount of orange flavor from the ale’s higher-than-expected hop backbone. It’s still a malt-dominant brew, with generous toffee, caramel and toast flavors all playing nicely with the spice and fruit accents. This is a soft-bodied beer, and while the finish isn’t lengthy, it is quite pleasant. The 5.8% ABV is mild by design, and isn’t often detectable.
Bell’s Best Brown is a light, sweet brown ale that aims to please a wide audience. It’s tough to dislike, and while it’s not as fruit-forward as some other brown ales, it’s good enough to session without losing interest. The complex flavors within a relatively constrained style make this a perfect match for fall grilling. Pairing this with a bratwurst on a pretzel bun would be an absolute winner, and nuttier cheeses like aged Gouda or Gruyère would also make for ideal companions.