Saturday, November 7, 2009

130. Bell’s Christmas Ale

From the good people who brought you Two Hearted Ale comes another beer from Bell’s Brewery in Comstock, MI; Christmas Ale is our fifth beer from Bell’s. Although today was the official day for Tomtoberfest, and thus our fridge was overflowing with homebrew, the rules we laid down stipulated a different commercially produced beer. So I went with Bell's Christmas Ale.

Bell’s Christmas Ale has a very distinct grape smell to it, sweet and slightly candy-like, much like grape candy or Grape Nehi soda—something slightly artificial. The hazy copper color has a nice orange hue to it—much like a burnished penny—and a creamy ivory head that laces the glass. The fruity, malty front is soft on the palate—again, the fruitiness is slightly grape-y—moving into some dryer malt flavors and some ever-so-slight bitterness before closing very clean. There may be a bit of lingering grape fruit flavor with the malt, but not much. It has a medium body and some refreshing carbonation bite between the middle and the end, and is probably part of what helps set up the clean closure. Overall, Bell’s Christmas Ale is a very interesting take on the Christmas Ale style. None of the heaviness of a darker Christmas beer or the spiciness of other holiday beers—this beer is designed more for lighter drinking enjoyment. Much like their other winter offering, Bell’s Winter White, this beer foregrounds flavor and complexity in a more drinkable form. Elli does find the grape nose distracting from what she calls “an otherwise drinkable beer,” but personally, I kinda like the grape nose—not so much because it works with the beer, but because it recalls a particular grape candy smell from my childhood, much like the way the smell (and taste) of Gatorade’s Riptide Rush reminds me of melted purple Otter Pops. Remember Alexander the Grape? Damn straight you do.

From the bottle: “From our fields to your holiday. A malt driven ale, made with 100% Michigan grown two-row barley malt and a mix of Michigan and Northwest Pacific hops. A bit of cheer from the north country, sure to make any occasion festive.”

There's nothing about this beer on the Bell’s website; Beer Advocate lists this as a Scottish Ale, although this doesn't particularly strike us as Scottish. Unless if it’s not Scottish it’s crap...

ABV: 5.4%


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