Bell's takes Oberon up a notch

Tom Gromak, and Dawn Riffenburg
The Detroit News

If you thought Oberon couldn't get any better, think again.

Bridget Gauntner of Grand Rapids pours a glass of Uberon, a whiskey-barrel-aged version of the iconic Oberon Ale.

For the Detroit Beer Festival on Friday, Bell's brought out a quarter-barrel of Uberon: Oberon aged in whiskey barrels. While regular Oberon clocks in at 5.8% ABV, Uberon comes in at at a healthy 9.7% But the combination of the wheat beer and bourbon barrels is more subtle and nuanced than the numbers indicate.

"We do it for special events -- festivals, sometimes it's at the pub -- it's very limited," said Bell's Bridget Gauntner. "People get really excited about it, because everyone loves Oberon."

She said it's especially appropriate for the change of season, with its higher alcohol content and bourbon adding to the fall feel.

"It's that time of year," said Gauntner, who works in the field quality department for the Kalamazoo-based brewer. "It's still Oberon, it's still going to have those flavors."

It's not the only unusual version of Oberon out there. In the summer, Bell's brews a mango-habenero Oberon that's a limited release in the summertime.

The Uberon is a light yet deep, a good fall beer with the warmth of the bourbon rounding it out. It will be available Saturday as the Fall Beer Festival continues, until the quarter-barrel runs out.

Bell's also brought a firkin of Two-Hearted Ale. The lower temperature and reduced carbonation released the flavors of the Two-Hearted IPA in a surprising manner.

"It's very balanced," Gauntner said. "Bell's strives for balance in general."