Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bell's Hell Hath No Fury...Ale

I picked up a six-pack of Bell's Hell Hath No Fury en route to the Notre Dame/Western Michigan game this past October. The Irish won but would not pick up another victory for an entire month. The morning of November 13th they sat at 4-5 and had been written off entirely, mocked by the usual scoffers who pegged the Brian Kelly hire as yet another failed attempt at reviving a fallen power. But the Irish would beat a ranked Utah team that day and not lose again the entire season, a run culminating in a New Year's Eve beasting of Miami that gave the domers a respectable eight wins for 2010. Similarly resilient is the Hell Hath No Fury, a Bell's mid-fall seasonal that originally got lost in the shuffle of my sizable Andersons beer score. I rediscovered it months later, a couple of bottles hidden in the fridge behind a wall of porters and stouts from my Christmas brew spree. It's hard to believe I wasn't touting this stuff months ago. What a terrific beer!

On paper, HHNF sounds like a really weird beer: half fruity Belgian ale, half roasty stout. I know! That's kinda strange, right? Actually, though, it's pretty delicious. The yeasts are sweet, with fruity (figs, raisins, prunes) and sugary (molasses, candy) notes meeting the bitter chocolate malts and roasted coffee profile of a stout or porter. And it works perfectly, with the fruity sweetness cutting into some of the roasty bitterness, but not totally subduing it. In much the way a milk stout or a vanilla porter somehow heightens a roasty flavor profile by balancing it out, HHNF attains a near-perfect blend. The difference here is that the Belgian yeasts are not just there for balance - they're tasty in their own right and just as important to the beer as the dark malts. To describe this merely as sort of a sugared porter would not be quite right. It's so much more than that. You could just as easily think of it as a roasty Belgian! I can see why it's a fall seasonal rather than a winter specialty. It's rich and warming, but also sweet and refreshing, the two beer styles co-existing in a beautifully equitable marriage. And you know I'm fond of beautifully equitable marriages.

Sadly, I only have one bottle of this fine ale left. It won't hit store shelves again until August at the earliest. But that's ok. It gives me something to look forward to. Michael Floyd's coming back for another season! Bell's Hell Hath No Fury, like Notre Dame football, will be a force in the fall of 2011.

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