I was sitting in the Tasting Room when I realized that Bell’s was next on the Webster’s Prime beer list. I had already consumed the first nine bottles on the list (Arbor/ Arcadia/ Atwater) and I just wasn’t as excited to drink down those upcoming six Bell’s! Maybe it’s because Arcadia has recently painted a picture of Bell’s with their statements and posters alluding to the fact that Bell’s no longer brews in Kalamazoo. Maybe it was because Bell’s is so available to me, being that I am a Kalamazoo resident, maybe I’m just to satiated to Bell’s because it’s right here, right around the block. I think I was taking Bell’s for granted in that moment and that I have been taking them for granted over the past few months.
There recently was a large poster hanging in the Old Burdicks window downtown that read: Arcadia Brewing Co. Truly Local. I passed by it every day on my way home, and every time I saw it, it just kind of rubbed me the wrong way. It painted a picture in my head that Bell’s was sort of a “sellout” for opening up a production facility in Galesburg. Kind of like when I was younger and my friends would say things like, “Oh, that band was so cool when I saw them in that sweet underground bar, now they are just sellouts.” I was childlike then, and I had that young mentality and ignorance. Now days I believe that you should not be dispirited towards a band, brewery, or anything else for that matter, just because they have become successful. I needed to shake this thought from my head, and I was lucky enough in recent times to have Bell’s and Arcadia both breathe new knowledge and inspiration into me.
A bunch of us from Zazios, Webster’s, and Burdicks recently visited Arcadia and had a wonderful experience. Jenny Parker from Imperial Beverage, and Steve Marcial an Arcadia Representative, were kind enough to plan a team outing for us. Arcadia was set with delicious food and beer for us to try, and Tim Surprise, founder of Arcadia personally took us on an Arcadia tour! I couldn’t believe it, it was truly awesome. We had a great time, so a big thank you to them. I even tried another Arcadia’s Sky High Rye. It is a West-Coast style, pale ale, which I recently wrote about in a past blog. I tore it apart in my last review, but I have to admit that I really enjoyed it the second time around; perhaps because it was on draft this time?
We also had the opportunity to recently tour the Bell’s facility, another great experience. Thank you to Chelsea Lassen and Gary Nicholas for a wonderful afternoon spent with Bell’s. They gave us a tour of the awesome new brewing facility in Galesburg, and by no means should anyone think of this place as a sellout. I had to kick myself at even once having this thought because so much of what Bell’s represents is Kalamazoo. The facility was truly a neat place to see, and I recommend that you take a free guided tour as soon as possible. Guided tours are offered most Saturdays at 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m, all you have to do is show up and someone will be there to show you around.
Bell’s also treated us to lunch and a couple brews, and we were lucky enough to attend Gary’s Sensory Awareness of Beer class. I’ve been to classes like this before, but with wine. It was really cool to flip a switch and think about the sensory process while drinking a beer. Gary reminded us that people will always drink with their eyes first. This is why sediment and flakes in a beer can turn someone off right away. There can also be beer bias because of the color and body of the beer. I’m guilty of this because when I see a dark beer, I think that it is going to be chewy, heavy in chocolate or molasses flavor, and maybe even to filling for me. There are three basic flavor groups, Trigeminal sensations, tongue / taste-bud sensations, and aromatics. The Trigeminal nerve is a nerve that is responsible for sensation in the face and the mouth. It notices things like pain, touch, and temperature. The carbonation, temperature, viscosity (mouth feel), and astringency (the tannic sensation), are all factors that affect your Trigeminal nerve while drinking. Bell’s puts a lot of focus on aromas; they believe that aromas are the real show. Bottles can take away that aroma part, I never thought about that before. When drinking out of a bottle or a can you could be getting a different aroma from that beer. Moral to the story, you should pour your beer into a glass while consuming it, to really appreciate and enjoy that beer’s aroma.
I also learned about over stimulation, fatigue, and saturation that can occur when drinking beer over time. This can happen with a lot of things, but again, I never thought about it when it came to beer. Your sensory detectors will become over stimulated and what you may have once enjoyed you no longer do. Let’s say you started drinking Bell’s at age 21 and started with Bell’s Oberon. Then you moved through their beers as you grew older, onto their Pale Ale and then Hopslam, and then you went back and had an Oberon at age 25. The Oberon may not taste like you remember it to taste. You may think to yourself that this beer no longer gives you any excitement whatsoever. It is because your body is now saturated from that taste and that you are now looking for something more. These are the times that you appreciate that “starter beer” for what it is, and appreciate that you have grown as a beer consumer.
One last tip that I would like to share, is that you should start with the least bitter beer first and make your way up to the most bitter. Hops will stick around on your tongue for about 20 minutes and this will really effect the taste of your next beer. I never knew that, and that could be why I disliked the Arcadia’s Sky High Rye the first time that I had it. I had just finished the Arcadia Hopmouth, so maybe there was some funky things going on inside my mouth. This may seem obvious, but you should also start lightest to darkest when trying beers.
I hope I didn’t ramble on to much in this blog, I didn’t even get a chance to mention how awesome the six Bell’s beers that I consumed really were. I’m really glad that I was able to rediscover my love for Bell’s and all that it stands for in this community. In my next blog I will explore Bell’s Amber Ale, Best Brown Ale, Oarsman Ale, Winter White Ale, Two Hearted Ale, and Kalamazoo Stout.
Lastly, I want to give a big thanks to all of the breweries out there who have been so kind in inviting the GHG restaurants to their properties. The level of education we are receiving is impeccable, and we couldn’t be more appreciative. This beer list challenge has really opened my eyes to so much more than I could have hoped for or even conceived four months ago.