Bell’s Brewery’s two flagships, Two Hearted IPA and Oberon American wheat ale, are each perennial favorites that have helped define their styles in the US craft beer market. So what happens when Bell’s gets a notion to combine the two styles for a new, year-round riff on the hazy IPA? The answer is here in Bell’s Official. The recipe combines wheat malt, double dry-hopping, and five different hop varieties for a porch-pounding crowdpleaser tailor-made for picnics and ballparks. Does it measure up to the high expectations? By and large, yes.
The tallboy can is a nice vehicle for Official’s artwork, which pairs ivory and royal blue in the background with the beer’s name in a script reminiscent of the cursive on MLB’s Royals and Tigers uniforms. It’s a clean, classic look that sets the stage appropriately for the drinker. Official pours as a pale color just a little darker than straw. It’s a bit fluffy, with medium carbonation, a big foam collar, and a lot of haze.
This beer smells tropical, to the point that my 9-year-old walked by and said “it smells like bananas and pineapples in here.” There’s also some big sour grapefruit and lemon in the mix, along with the white pepper phenol you’d expect from a wheat beer. The malt is fainter on the nose, but there’s a bit of bread and biscuit, and some accents of pine and grassiness from the hop combination.
Bell's Official attempts to be many things to many audiences here, and the brewery has very nearly pulled it off.”
It takes a minute to untangle all the things that Bell’s is attempting with this beer. The wheat component brings some bready malt flavors, while the hops add in pepper, grass, and a lot of tropical fruit. There’s mango, banana, and loads of pineapple juicy and hazy flavors on the palate. The hops are moderate and in balance, reflecting the idea that this is meant to be a mass appeal beer, not a hop bomb. The flavors mask the alcohol well—Official drinks like a lighter beer than the 6.4% would suggest. There’s also a rather brisk, dry finish, which seems intentional but comes as a bit of a surprise—the recipe aims to be crisp and sessionable.
Bell's Official attempts to be many things to many audiences here, and the brewery has very nearly pulled it off. We’re not entirely sold on the finish of this one, but the combination of tropical flavors, hop spice, and wheat malt works quite well. Ballparks, outdoor bars, and convenience stores should probably load up on Official—it's easy to like, and many drinkers will make it a fridge staple.