Le Contrabassiste
Bell's Brewery - Eccentric Café & General Store

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French Bière de Garde
Ranked #96
Ranked #29,108
3.77 | pDev: 9.28%
Bell's Brewery - Eccentric Café & General Store
Michigan, United States
Very Good
Notes: Complex, toasty malts and European hop varieties combine with brettanomyces fermentation in oak foeders to create a complex beer with fruity and toasty notes and a slightly tart finish.
Reviews: 15 | Ratings: 122 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of neenerzig
4.4/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Having this on-tap at Tremont Tap House at their annual Bell's Ruins Cleveland Beer Week tap take over event. Served in a pint glass, this beer draws a medium, slightly cloudy/hazy, brown color with a white head that's about 1/2 inch thick when first serves that settles to a thin ring lining the inside of the glass and not much lacing at all. Has aromas somewhat bready malt, maple brown sugar, and some sour barnyard funk notes. The taste is exactly the same with, with bready, slightly toasted, caramel malts, some maple brown sugar sweetness. This is followed by a barnyard funk and sourness with some cherry and currant notes. Really unique and excellent flavor profile overall. Has a fairly crisp, yet smooth, medium to full bodied mouthfeel with moderate carbonation. Also has a clean finish and somewhat dry and tart after taste. Quite easy to drink all around here. An excellent beer overall.


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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.21/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

this beer is awesome, havent had very much wild ale stuff from bells, so a real treat to get to try this one. there is a listing for a brett edition of this, but i think its a double listing as this is very obviously a wild ale. hazy amber in color, cherry colored really, looks fruited its so red, and the head is tan and bubbly and holds well. it smells fantastic, tangy woody weirdness, not quite sour enough to be a flemish type, not readily recognizable as similar to anything else i have had. i get dried fruit notes out of the malt, and a very complex mix of yeasty bacterial cultures from saison elements to funky brett to lemony lacto. summery and light despite its color and depth. the best feature here is the unique fermentation palate, taking wild ale to a place it rarely goes, and i love it. there is a hint of vinegar on the back end, really tangy and dry, and carbonated brilliantly. definitely spent time on wood, or at least some of it did, not sure of this is a blend or what. very expressive and unique beer, nice to get to see this side of bells, i was not even really aware of any wild ale they made, so this is a nice change of pace. do they package this one? if so, i would be interesting in trading for some!

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Photo of DMarlinJ
4.05/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Definitely reminiscent of a Farmhouse ale. Great smell. Not much head. Found it on tap at local restaurant. Sour and tart note in taste. Herbal and floral flavor and smell but I could not really identify them. Changed as it warmed and got a bit too sour for me but overall it was a nice pre-dinner offering. Maybe the best Farmhouse style I have liked, not generally a big fan of the style but I would try others based on this one.

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Photo of DrDemento456
4/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Quite a rare find at my local Beermuda. Was able to get a full pint of this for 5 bucks.

A - Pours a deep amber hue brown, very clear in color, with a 1/2 inch of mocha head.
S - Mostly smells of clean fruity Belgium malts, has smoked malts and a bit of chocolate malts as well. In a way it kind of smells like a Doppelbock very Toasty.
T - My notes describe a very clean Doppelbock taste, mostly caramel sweetness, some fruity notes and smoked malts a plenty of toasted malts.
M - Medium bodied, somewhat chewy. Clean and easy to go down.

Overall it seems pretty on par with the description of the style maybe could have used some sour lemon that's always good. It drank well enough was a great beer overall.

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.03/5  rDev -19.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Though much darker and toastier than I'm used to seeing out of the style, this more robust biere de garde applies some artistic liberties above the dry fruitiness of the underlying French farmhouse character.

Medium brown in color, the active beer streams carbonation from the bottom and fuels an off-white head with an understated sturdiness and light pocketed lacing. Much darker than the style suggests, the ale takes on appearances of Belgian brown ales or dubbel ales.

Muted aromatics reveal subtle tones of bread crust, peppercorn, fruit, and grain. The base beer's pilsner malts allow for a bready note to support the toast, spice, and fruit while pulling in nuances of peat and coffee-like roast.

Similarly, the taste starts grainy-sweet, seemingly of creamed corn in a fatty middle palate. That's where the toasty, coffee, peppery note promote a bolder tone deeper into taste. A nondescript fruity taste seems of "Juicy Fruit" bubblegum, but is buried under the pepper, peat, and toast.

Medium bodied throughout, there's a residual sweetness and body that gives the beer a fatty corn-like texture during the bulk of the middle palate. But aided by dry toast, spicy pepper, and alcohol warmth, the beer finishes dry.

This biere de garde does a lot of things at once. I can see this type of flavor existing before coal-fired steam was introduced as a drying and kilning agent for malts. Prior, the wood fired practices may have imparted these darker, toastier, and smokier flavors to nearly all beers. Perhaps this is the motivation for this third installment of their Jazz series. Even with that, this beer remains lacking in authentic farmhouse character and results in a simpler taste and keeps the beer somewhat banal.

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Photo of deebo
3.42/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Had on tap as part of Bells tap takeover at bulldog uptown in mold
A-served in tulip this one has just a hint of filmy tan head. Reddish brown and pretty clear
S-lightly smoked malt, hints of fruity yeast
T-the smoky quality of the malt is there but definitely not overpowering. Some black peppery spiciness, hints of yeast with a long tingly bitter finish
M-high carbonation, medium bodied, bitter with a lingering finish
O-a decent brew but a bit off in its combination of flavor and mouthfeel.

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Photo of Thorpe429
3.75/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Bell's last weekend.

Pours a mostly-clear brown-amber color with a short white head. Some spotty lacing as it goes down. The nose is pretty tame, bringing just a bit of malt and bread crust. The flavor is more complex and fits the style quite well, bringing some nice earthy elements and a slight fruity touch. Bread is the main characteristic. Some sweetness. Medium body and moderate carbonation. A good example of a style I'm not particularly fond of.

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Photo of TheBear11D
3.53/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Bell's on 6-18-11

From notes:

Pours a nice dark orange to amber with a frothy nearly white head that left proof of its existence throughout.

The nose features bread, yeast and semi-sweet malts first with floral hops and a bit of spice.

The flavor follows suit pretty closely to the nose. Bread, yeast, floral hops and some spice.

Medium body that is a little dry.

A decent beer from Bell's, but I can see why this is not a regular for them.

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Photo of MikeyRx
2.99/5  rDev -20.7%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

The beer profile says it was a one-time brew... This is apparently not true as it just returned on tap at Bell's Eccentric Cafe 6/4/11.

Appearance: Pours light, milky brown with head that recedes immediately and completely.

Smell: Surprisingly sour aroma overall with earth, floral and ester notes.

Taste: Slightly sweet, bread/biscuit malt flavors predominate with tastes of earth and some slightly sour esters. I noted hints of wood and a slight buttery diacetyl flavor at the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with minimal carbonation, slightly sticky or chewy feel with a relatively flat finish.

Overall: The smell and taste of the beer are good but I was unimpressed with the beer overall. If still available the next time I'm at Bell's I'll revisit this beer.

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Photo of jampics2
4.18/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Night Town during Cleveland Beer Week. The entire Bell's Jazz Series was featured for the first time ever in Ohio.

The color is a dark copper and amber with hints of caramel, almost reminiscent of the color of the finish on the wood a double bass would be traditionally stained to. How appropriate! The beer has a beautiful off-white head, let's call it the cap on the bassist's head. And it doesn't fly off during the solo - instead, it has great retention and some wonderful clinging lace. Probably the most appealing were it not for the somewhat filtered, clear appearance this has, especially when compared to the other two in the series.

The smell is primarily malty, with a touch of toast and even some roast. There's also a subtle touch of smoke, but not enough to add but a touch of depth. It doesn't carry over to the taste, so fear not if you're not into smoky beers. The caramel and toffee from the malt are joined by a few distinct yeasty esters, which add a caramel-covered prune and raisin note to the mix. The nose could be more expressive, but it has nice depth and the slight chocolate roast is a welcome addition. More notable noble hops and yeast esters would move this a few rungs up the ladder.

Wow, what a great malt complexity going on here. The low end is in effect, hitting the bridge between caramel and a great chocolate roast while plucking some silky toffee strings. Just a hint of smoke adds depth without any notable real distractions. The hops are there but quickly fleet as the roast takes over. There are some yeasty esters giving some nice dark fruit - black cherries and raisins. Almost like a French brown ale if there ever could be such a thing. Sacrebleu! Perhaps a roasty Scottish ale would make a better comparison? Je sacre par Dieu, Américaine.

The mouthfeel is crisp with perhaps just a bit too much carbonation. The body is significant enough to handle it though, and any less carbonation would probably make the medium body seem a bit on the heavy side. The beer finishes with some lingering sweetness, but it doesn't come close to the toothsome tastes of the Pianiste. I liked this beer more than the other two in the series as I felt the malt bill was more in line with the better examples of Bière de Garde I've been fortunate enough to try. This is worth seeking out, but maybe I'm partial as I've always been enamored with its namesake. I just wanted to play an instrument I could carry home on the bus without having to sit up front next to the tuba kid.

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Photo of mothman
3.43/5  rDev -9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a layer of khaki head. Color is a clear dark copper orange.

Aroma: Biscuit malts and some herbal hops. Weak. Not much in the nose.

Taste: More biscuit malts and some earthy hops. Some spice and coriander. Not a lot going on with these beers. It has a roasted taste and some toffee. A bit of yeast.

Mouthfeel: Creamy, smooth. Medium bodied with a medium amount of carbonation. Ends a bit clean but dry.

Overall, it is somewhat drinkable, but there just isn't a lot of flavor in it. Not something I would go out of my way to try again.

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Photo of kbutler1
3.58/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Draft at Autumn Brew Review. Pours a clear reddish mahagony color with a slight white head. Very malty and biscuity in the nose. Smells sweet. The taste is, as I smelled, sweet up front with a long drawn out biscuity and sweet taste. Minimal hop presence. A big and rich beer. Medium mouthfeel. Didn't pick up any alcohol type notes. Not too bad.

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Photo of bsp77
3.65/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Number three (of three) in the French Jazz series - The Bruin

Serving glass: Poured from tap into small goblet.

Appearance: Rich, hazy mahogany with off-white head.

Smell: Plum, toffee, slightly smoky.

Taste: Smoky, sweet caramel and toffee. Some dark fruit and cherry. With the yeast (while present) pushed mostly to the background, this seems more like a Scotch Ale.

Feel: Moderate carbonation, full body, smooth but just a touch cloying.

Drinkability: The strongest in alcohol and flavor of the three Biere de Gardes, but the slightly cloying body means that I prefer Le Pianiste. Still quite good.

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Photo of rfgetz
3.4/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours the color of an old penny, thin cap of off-white head. Scent is sweet brown sugar, melted carmel with touches of burnt grain and burnt popcorn, slight earthy and clay notes. Taste is not much better then scent, tastes almost like a musty Cosecrator - sweet carmel and toffee, roasted nuts. Medium bodied, highly carbonated, cloying at times. Not the best offering from these guys but unique for its style.

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Photo of corby112
3.17/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served on tap at City Tap House.

Pours a deep dark amber copper color with dark goldn mahogany edges when held to a light source and a one finger frothy off-white head that slowly settles into a lasting ring. Minimal spots of lacng oft behind.

Slightly roasty sweet malt aroma with a faint touch of smokiness. Hintsnof bready yeast, chocolate, caramel and toffee. Overall though the nose is pretty bland.

Mediumbidied with a prominent roasty smoked flavor up front with hints of acrid burnt malt and toast which are quickly mellowed out by sweet notes of hazelnut, toffee, milk chocolate and caramel. A bit too carbonated for my loony but this beer improves with warmth, becoming more smooth and balanced with a slightly creamy lactic presence. Probably the most complex Biere de Garde I've had.

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Le Contrabassiste from Bell's Brewery - Eccentric Café & General Store
Beer rating: 85 out of 100 with 122 ratings