Bell's Two Hearted Ale
"Two Hearted is my favorite beer that I don't brew myself. However, this recipe negates any reason to 'buy' Two Hearted ever again! Excellent clone." - Jerry
"Absolutely spectacular. Great water profile suggestion! I love my brewery. Thanks Kal!" - jclavel
"...I thought this was BETTER than the store bought Two Hearted Ale. 10 gallons only made it 4 weeks without any major gatherings at my house. Not one person didn't like this beer." - Fal
"Brewed this recently and it turned out great. I haven't tried the original Two Hearted but if it is anything like this then I understand why it is currently rated Americas best beer. This clone is a perfect balance of hoppiness, malt and alcohol. Incredible beer which turns out a shining example of the style. This went down well with all who tried. I would go as far as saying this recipe was flawless." - Rivet
"Kal, just wanted to say that this beer is fantastic! Everyone at the party loved this beer. I had a can of Two Hearted that I got in Orlando a few weeks ago that was canned on 5/25/2021 (~5 weeks ago). We did a side by side comparison and this recipe really comes close. The people at the party all said that the one I made had brighter and fresher hops and the aroma popped more than the real one! Also it was so smooth and balanced and drinks like a much lighter beer. This one will sneak up on you! Thanks again for posting another stellar recipe!" - jcav (John)
Bell’s flagship beer is Two Hearted Ale, an American style IPA that is unique in that it only uses Centennial hops. Less bitter than West Coast Style IPAs such as the Green Flash offering, Two Hearted is hoppy but balanced, very drinkable.
The beer was released commercially in 2000, at a time when a 7% dry hopped IPA was not a common beer. It quickly became the standard that many others tried to emulate when brewing a great American IPA. For many beer lovers this is the first hoppy beer (let alone the first IPA) that they ever tasted, the drink that pulled them into the world of craft beer. It is considered a truly historic beer by many.
So what's it taste like? To quote the brewery:
"Brewed with 100% Centennial hops from the Pacific Northwest and named after the Two Hearted River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, this IPA is bursting with hop aromas ranging from pine to grapefruit from massive hop additions in both the kettle and the fermenter. Perfectly balanced with a malt backbone and combined with the signature fruity aromas of Bell's house yeast, this beer is remarkably drinkable and well suited for adventures everywhere."
Nobody told me I had to be 'adventuring' to best enjoy this beer ... does sitting on the couch enjoying a pint count? 😉
The bottle features a picture of a rainbow trout which strikes most people as odd when they first see it. Someone perusing the aisles at their favourite beer store is liable to think that this is some strange marketing attempt at making a fish flavoured beer. I sometimes wonder how much more they would have sold (if any) had the label been different...
As the Bell's description mentions, the name and label would appear to come from the Two Hearted River in northern Michigan (home of Bell's Brewery) which happens to be a popular destination for recreational fishing, featured in the story “Big Two-Hearted River" by Ernest Hemingway. However, according to a quote from Laura Bell (daughter of the brewery's founder Larry Bell), early 1990's Two Hearted recipe experiments used a combination of English malt and American hops, hence the name "Two Hearted". The recipe changed, the name stuck.
Despite the odd label it is an extremely popular beer that as of this writing has been ranked as the #1 beer in America for the last three years now (2017-2019) by the American Homebrewers Association's Zymurgy magazine, having knocked Russian River's Pliny the Elder down to second place after an eight year run in first. Nice to see that both sides are enjoying the light hearted competition and not taking it too seriously:
View this post on Instagram
Thank you to our friends @bellsbrewery for delivering to us this giant bottle of #twoheartedale in celebration of their #1 ranking in this year’s Zymurgy Magazine Best Beers issue! You can look forward to a 6-liter of #plinytheelder headed your way next year when we reclaim the throne! 😂🍻 @johnthebrewer #zymurgymagazine #bestbeers2019 #weareingoodcompany #rrbccrew
The Two Hearted malt bill uses mostly domestic 2-row, Vienna for some graininess, and just a bit of caramel / crystal 15-20L to add a touch of sweetness and colour. The hop bill is extremely straight forward with only Centennial from start to end.
Bell's is said to use a proprietary (in-house) yeast strain but if you follow the various brewing forums you'll find that many (including some who helped with the initial setup of the brewery) have indicated that their in-house strain is actually Wyeast 1272 American Ale II. This yeast produces more fruity notes and is more flocculant than Fermentis Safale US-05 / Wyeast 1056 American Ale / White Labs WLP-001 California Ale that we've used for many of our other American style hop-forward beers.
Brew up a batch and let us know how you like it!
Bell's Two Hearted Ale
Size: 12 US gallons (post-boil @ 68F)
Mash Efficiency: 95%
Calories: 217 kcal per 12 fl oz
Original Gravity: 1.066 (style range: 1.056 - 1.075)
Final Gravity: 1.012 (style range: 1.010 - 1.018)
Colour: 5 SRM (style range: 6 - 15)
Alcohol: 7% ABV (style range: 5.5% - 7.5%)
Bitterness: 55 IBU (style range: 40 - 70)
17.9 lb Domestic 2-row malt (1.8-2L) (76.8%)
3.6 lb Vienna malt (3-4L) (15.5%)
0.9 lb Crystal malt (15-20L) (3.9%)
0.9 lb Carapils or Carafoam (1.4-2.9L) (3.9%)
1.75 oz Centennial hops (11%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min [30 IBU]
1 Whirlfloc tablet (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
2 oz Centennial hops (11%) - added during boil, boiled 15 min [16.5 IBU]
2 oz Centennial hops (11%) - added during boil, boiled 5 min [6.9 IBU]
2 oz Centennial hops (11%) - added during boil, boiled 1 min [1.4 IBU]
Wyeast 1272 American Ale II yeast or White Labs WLP051 California V Ale yeast
(~733 billion cells [7-8 fresh packs] or an equivalent starter)
2 oz Centennial hops (11%) - added to fermenter near end of fermentation, steeped 3 days
Purchasing through our affiliate links helps support our site at no extra cost to you. We thank you!
Notes / Process
- Add 500mg potassium metabisulfite to 20 gallons water to remove chlorine / chloramine (if required).
- Water treated with brewing salts to our Hoppy flavour profile: Ca=110, Mg=18, Na=16, Cl=50, SO4=275 (Basically Randy Mosher's ideal Pale Ale numbers with slightly less sulfate). For more information on how to adjust your water, refer to our step by step Water Adjustment guide.
- 1.25 qt/lb mash thickness.
- Single infusion mash at 150F for 90 mins.
- Raise to 168F mashout temperature and hold for 10 mins.
- ~90 min fly sparge with ~5.6-5.8 pH water (measured at mash temperature).
- Whirlfloc and hops per schedule. Lid on at end of boil, start chilling immediately. Boil for 60 minutes, adding
- Cool the wort quickly to 66F (we use a one-pass convoluted counterflow chiller to quickly lock in hop flavour and aroma) and transfer to fermenter.
- Oxygenate the chilled wort to a level of 14 ppm dissolved oxygen. For more information refer to our Aerating / Oxygenating Wort guide.
- Pitch yeast and ferment at 66-68F (wort temperature). We use modified stainless fermenting buckets in wine fridges.
- Add dry hops once fermentation is nearing completion (i.e. 5 points from final gravity) and raise the temperature to 70-72F. In our case we simply turn off the fermenting fridges and allow the beer to naturally rise to room temperature. Steep hops for 3 days while fermentation finishes. Assume fermentation is done if the gravity does not change over ~3 days.
- Before packaging you may optionally rack to a brite tank (we use 5 gallon glass carboys) that has been purged with CO2 to avoid oxygen pickup, add 1 tsp of unflavoured gelatin dissolved in a cup of hot distilled water per 5 gallons of beer, and allow to clear for 2-3 days. Gelatin may "round off" some hop flavour / aroma so we tend to skip this step with hop forward beers like this. As well, the less you handle the beer through racking and potentially expose it to oxygen, the better.
- Package as you would normally. We rack to kegs that have first been purged with CO2, and then carbonate on the low side (around 2 volumes of CO2) to minimize carbonic bite and let the hop and malt flavours shine through. We chill the kegs to near freezing while carbonating at the same time in a 6-keg conditioning fridge. After ~1-2 weeks at serving pressure the kegs will be carbonated and ready to serve. Like all hop forward beers this IPA is best consumed fresh so feel free to raise the CO2 pressure temporarily to 30-40 PSI to carbonate fast over a 24 period, and then turn back down to serving pressure. Some hop bits will have invariably made their way into the keg during transfer so we use a Hop Stopper Keg Edition filter to ensure that hops do not clog the dip tube and/or end up in the glass. Force carbonating at high pressure and using a Hop Stopper filter allows us to serve this beer 24 hours after kegging. There's no need to wait a few days for any hop bits that made their way into the keg to first settle out.
For detailed brewing instructions, see our Brew Day Step by Step guide.
Questions? Visit our Bell's Two Hearted Ale forum thread.
Pictures / Videos
Interested in seeing what we're brewing right now? Follow us on Instagram for pictures and videos of our brewing activities as they happen.