Bell's Brewery's Light Hearted Ale hits store shelves, craft beer taps

Tom Gromak
The Detroit News

Just in time for Super Bowl weekend, and to help you try to stay on track with those New Year resolutions, Bell’s Brewery has dropped “Light Hearted Ale,” a low-carb, low-calorie variant of its highly rated “Two Hearted Ale.”

Coming in at just 110 calories per can, 8.7 grams of carbs, and 3.7% alcohol by volume, the easy-drinking beer appears aimed at the growing niche of diet beers in a market getting challenged by the hard-seltzer craze. It’s lighter, but still flavorful, especially compared to the other mass-market beers in the 100-calorie range.

Bell's Light Hearted Ale is a low-carb, low-calorie variant of its reknowned Two Hearted Ale. It hits stores and pubs this week.

Six-packs have shipped out from Comstock-based Bell’s, and should be in area beer stores this week, if not already. It’s also showing up on tap lists around Metro Detroit.

To be clear, in a side-by-side taste test, you won’t confuse Light Hearted with Two Hearted. The original delivers a hefty mouthfeel and strong, hoppy bitterness, weighing in at 212 calories, 17 carbs, and 7% ABV. Where Two Hearted is brewed with all Centennial Hops, Light Hearted adds Galaxy hops to the mix, a move made to keep the beer bright after reducing the alcohol content, according to John Mallett, VP of operations for Bell's Brewery.

"There certainly is some interest in this kind of 'better for you' category," Mallett said. "Obviously Two Hearted is a tremendously successful, well-loved, well-executed beer. So playing in that space of great malt balance, really just a clean hop character, and to try to do it in that lower calorie, lower ABV area was what we were trying to get done."

He thinks they succeeded despite the challenges. The biggest: That a beer with less alcohol has less fermentation. Less fermentation could lead to reduced flavor.

"In order to synthesize a whole beer, by bringing some of those fruitier characters through use of the Galaxy (hops), we kind of met the ideal of 'yeah, this is what a lighter Two Hearted should taste like'," Mallett said. "It's an easy drinking, but full-featured beer."

In our sample, we found many of the same balanced grapefruit and pine flavors of Two Hearted are still present in Light Hearted, just with a little less punch and a little more earthy, grassy undertone. It tastes thinner and brighter, and might have a special appeal to a more casual IPA drinker. But we can also see this becoming an IPA-lover’s staple lawnmower beer for the summer months, occupying a place alongside summer stalwarts like Founders’ All Day IPA.