Bell’s Christmas Ale made its debut last season. According to the bottle label it is a Scotch ale brewed with 100% Michigan barley and a blend of Pacific Northwest and Michigan hops. It is one of those “Christmas ales” that is so by virtue of the fact that the brewery calls it one. A pretty straightforward example of the style, there is nothing about it that specifically screams “Christmas.” It’s a fairly tasty beer nonetheless. Here’s my notes:
Aroma: Caramel malt leads into loads of fruit, cherries, raisins, and figs. A faint whiff of roast. Cola-like. Perhaps a bit copper metallic.
Appearance: Amber/orange with a full, rocky, off-white head that collapsed quickly into a thin film on the surface of the beer. Crystal clear.
Flavor: The flavor very much follows the aroma. Nutty caramel malt dominates with a good deal of cherry and raisin fruitiness. The roast flavor, though still distant, is fuller than in the aroma coming on especially in the finish. The bitterness is higher than expected and there is a nice earthy/spicy hop flavor, though it remains a malt forward beer. It gets better as the initial carbonation settles and the malt character is allowed to come through more fully. Nice herbal and vanilla notes begin to come through as well. Finishes fairly dry with distant roast. The metallic notes from the aroma are there in the flavor as well, but faint.
Mouthfeel: The high level of carbonation gives this beer a carbonic bite that detracts from the rich malty flavors. Better after it has de-gassed a bit. Medium body.
Overall Impression: This beer grew on me as I drank it. It definitely benefited from being allowed to de-gas a bit. Nice caramel malt and fruit character. Even some hints of spice, although the label does not indicate that any were used in the brewing. It’s a nice beer but I think there are better examples of the style to be had. Would go well with warm shepherd’s pie on a cold wintery day like today.