Craft Beer Scene Around Rockford: Smitten Golden Rye Ale a good thirst quencher

By Michael Sears
President, Forest City Brewers

The month of May is finally here, and I’m ready for some WARM weather — not the cool, rainy variety we have had the last week. That being said, this week I would like to talk about a spring seasonal beer that is not a traditional style, Smitten Golden Rye Ale by Bell’s Brewery.

Founded by Larry Bell as a homebrew supply shop in 1983, Bell’s Brewery, Inc., of Comstock, Mich., sold its first commercial beer in September 1985. Larry initially brewed in a 15-gallon soup kettle. Since those days, the company has grown remarkably from its production of 135 barrels (one barrel equals 31 gallons) in 1986 to more than 216,000 barrels by 2012. Bell’s has built a solid portfolio of year-round, seasonal and specialty beers that include traditional styles and the brewery’s own recipes.

Smitten Golden Rye Ale is a seasonal beer available starting in February. It is one of Bell’s own recipes, and one of Larry Bell’s oldest. The website describes this beer as follows: “A combination of sharp citrus and resinous flavors from the Pacific Northwest hops with the earthy, rustic overtones of the rye malt yield an interesting and refreshing take on the American Pale Ale.” Hmmm, let’s see for ourselves.

I poured this into one of my Sam Adams’ Perfect Pint glasses. It has a hazy gold appearance with a full two-finger depth, creamy, white head that hangs on for a good, long time with lots of bubbles throughout. Lots of dense lacing on the glass as the head recedes slowly.

The aroma is pleasant, very floral, almost perfume-like, and citrusy grapefruit from the hops reminding me of springtime. The spicy/peppery rye grain is present, but almost as an afterthought. A lot of interesting things going on here. This is very inviting, so let’s take a drink.

Tastes like it smells, with a nice, slightly sweet grain backbone and the floral hops upfront, and then the piney/citrus hops take over. The flavor is hoppier than the aroma. The finish highlights the spicy rye malt and grapefruit. The complexity that it shifts though is quite enjoyable.

The mouth feel is medium, slightly creamy, but also crisp at the same time. The nice carbonation accentuates the dryness and spicy flavor — a good thirst quencher.

With an ABV (alcohol by volume) of 6 percent, this is a little high to be a session beer for many, but it would not deter me from a couple of these at a sitting. This is a very good beer to help you get through those rainy spring days and help warm your soul if the outside temps don’t just yet.


Michael Sears is president of the Forest City Brewers. The Forest City Brewers is a homebrewing club dedicated to the art of finely crafted beer. The club meets the first Wednesday of each month at Thunder Bay Grille on East State Sreet. For more about Forest City Brewers, go to If you have comments or recommendations, please contact Mike at

From the May 7-13, 2014, issue

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