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A Splendid Pint: Hand-pulled Two Hearted Ale

Bell’s Two Hearted Ale is my go-to American-style India Pale Ale (AIPA) for multiple reasons. 1. It’s a Michigan product and I live in Michigan. Apart from brewpubs, this relationship is about the closest to old-world village drinking one can get in the era of homogenization. Figure in shipping distances, local economies and you recognize that I’m more or less saving the world by drinking beer. 2. While not lacking a generous proportion of hops, I find Two Hearted’s hop profile to be fruitier than the generic AIPA. A spirit of mushy ripe peaches and apricots help to balance out the long, bitter finish. 3. A healthy 7% alcohol by volume provides just the right warmth for a beefy guy like me. 4. It’s available in just about every corner store in the state, from Hancock to Luna Pier.

So it is by providence that my daughter began taking violin lessons at McCourt Music in Berkley. Each Thursday at seven I now have half-an-hour to kill in downtown Berkley and it so happens that McCourts is a mere two doors down from the Berkley Front. I have mixed emotions about The Front, as the locals call it. It’s dingy and stinky and the crow who runs the place once called me stupid for attempting to ask her questions for a review I was writing. But I choose not to allow a personal grudge to keep me from patronizing a bar that offers several dozen taps of fermented wet goods, the better portion of which dispense American craft brew or hard to find imports. Being the bigger man, so to speak, is effortless when it works to your favor.

I say providence because by no other means would I find myself bellying up to The Front’s bar last night and spying a small note on their large white board beer menu promoting Two Hearted Ale from a hand pull. Hand pulled beer comes from a manually pumped “beer engine” (a lovely name by any account). It is characterized by less carbonation and is served warmer than a standard pressurized tap. Beer poured using this method has become known to the British as “real ale”. The effect this has on Two Hearted Ale is nothing short of magical. The warmth and subtle carbonation allow the maltiness of the beer to show a depth not realized in the bottled or even straight tap version. I suspect there was also a dry-hopping done to the cask that results in a floral aroma akin to standing within a hedge of privet in full bloom. It was as satisfying a beer as I’ve had in my lifetime. As an occasional home brewer I often find myself grousing at a $5 pint. Not this time. Not this beer.
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