As summer melts into fall and evenings begin to chill, higher ABV beers bring a welcome warming quality. This time around, we start on the West Coast, then head east to Brooklyn with a Midwest pit stop in that state up north to taste the latest brew from Bell’s in Kalamazoo.
Bell’s Best Brown Ale: Much less boozy than our other choices this session, this ale’s smooth, toasty taste makes it ideal for fall brew. With availability limited to September and October, it has a dark amber color with hints of caramel toffee and cocoa. A sturdy malt body of toasted nuts gives depth, but not too much bulk. A dash of cinnamon and light American hops help achieve the dry, balanced profile. Gentle carbonation and smoothness and an ABV of 5.8 percent ensure this seasonal Bell’s is easily drinkable.
Russian River Pliny the Elder: The name alone created some initial buzz on this West Coast double IPA’s release, but its frothy head quickly gained fans. Named for the first-century Roman author and naturalist, Pliny – thought to be among the first to extol the virtues of hops – this brew’s strong pine and citrus nose hint at the crisp, bitter taste to come. Not surprisingly, it’s hop-forward with just enough bready malt in the background to swing it into balance. At 8 percent ABV, this double is nicely warm and fizzy.
Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout: A dark beige head tops this nearly black brew that lives up to its name. Smelling of mild chocolate and roasted malt aromas, the flavor deepens as you go, filling the mouth with rich – almost smoky – cocoa and molasses backed by a slightly salty cherry infusion. As stouts go, this offering is just on the heavy side of medium-bodied, but it’s lightened a bit with just-right carbonation. With a hefty 10 percent ABV, this inky stout makes a great dessert drink on a nippy fall night.