Leaves of Grass Series IV: To A Locomotive In Winter
Bell's Brewery - Eccentric Café & General Store

Leaves of Grass Series IV: To A Locomotive In WinterLeaves of Grass Series IV: To A Locomotive In Winter
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Smoke Porter
Ranked #31
Ranked #18,194
3.9 | pDev: 9.23%
Bell's Brewery - Eccentric Café & General Store
Michigan, United States
Very Good
Leaves of Grass Series IV: To A Locomotive In WinterLeaves of Grass Series IV: To A Locomotive In Winter
Notes: The fourth of 7 beers celebrating a literary classic, and one of our favorites, Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman. German smoked malt, chocolate malt and roasted malt work in harmony with carefully chosen hops for a smooth, smokey take on a classic style.
Reviews: 24 | Ratings: 53 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of jjamadorphd
3.52/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

I was intrigued as I studied Walt Whitman in high school and college, this beer ain't at the quality of Walt's poems, but it's still solid enough...

Great looking beer with lacing, and a decent scent and taste of smoked flavor, though it doesn't really work entirely well. Both the scent and flavor have this mettalic tang to it that I just couldn't overlook from top to bottom in the pint glass. It detracted without being awful, and the watery mouthfeel just added to the slight disappointment I had over this. Mind you, it's light and crisp as well on the tongue but definitely watery. Overall, it's solid enough. I'll have to keep an eye out for other in the series and see where it takes me...

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Photo of Alieniloquium
4.1/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. bottle. Pours black with a thin khaki collar. Smells of strong smoked malt. A little meaty. Some deep roasted malt comes through. Tastes of strong roasted malts here too. Lightly sweet chocolate malt. Then a strong roasted malt back end with roasty bitterness. Medium body. Extremely flavorful without being heavy, sluggish, or sweet. Excellent.

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Photo of twage04
4.55/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Pours a dark black, normal carbonation. A hint of roast and smoke on the nose. Taste is rich malt/roast/toast with just enough smoke to gel in the background. Really liked this beer, excellent incorporation of smoked malts with a good enough porter to make a balanced fun beer.

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Photo of garymuchow
4.06/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I've enjoyed this series both as a way to get me to read Leaves of Grass, but also as a good example of many styles of beer. My thanks and credit to the brewers at Bells for this fine series.
This one again hits as another fine example of style. The smoke is done tastefully on a solid base porter.
A nice sweet smoke to the aroma over a solid dark malt based with some roast. Highlights are brown with a little orange amber. Head was smallish on this pour, but others had a more dense head (I think this one is still too cold).
I think the smoke is getting bolder as this one ages. Still blended nicely and like the aroma has a sweetness to the smoke. Apparent drying on the finish but enough richness to prevent too much. Nice soft and full feel for a beer this size. A satisfying beer that is rich enough to force a bit of a slowdown in drinking. Should go well with any food generally matching smoked porters.

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Photo of Giggy
4.16/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Thoroughly enjoyed it. 16oz. pour on draft. Nice hint of smoke, chocolate, and malt. Medium body. Would have been awesome with a little bit higher ABV. This is definitely the best of the series.

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Photo of Beaver13
3.48/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle, bottled 11/13/19. Pours dark brown black with a medium creamy brown head that retains fairly well and leaves a little lacing.

The aroma is smoky leather with some roasted malts and floral notes.

The flavor is slightly sweet roast patent malt with earthy smokiness. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with slightly sharp carbonation.

Overall, a decent smoked beer.

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Photo of q33jeff
3.89/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 4


bottle to snifter.

LOOK: cola black-brown. fading wispy off white head.
AROMA: smoke, leather, tobacco, barley/grains. Very nice aromatics. strong smokeyness and pungent, but smooth enough not to make you cough.
TASTE: Charcoal, ash. Some irish-stout-like dry malt.
FEEL: a tad flat. medium body. nothing special in this category.

interesting smoked porter. aroma is fantastic.


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Photo of HorseheadsHophead
3.62/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Black with dark brown highlights, and a tan head with a good retention and some specks of lacing.

Smells moderately smoky. Notes of applewood smoke and ham, and maybe a hint of roasted malt.

A bit of dark chocolate, burnt toast, and coffee; earth hops, and then a mild smokiness. Hints of ham. Pretty light and thin.

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Photo of barnzy78
3.75/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle, PKG 11/13/2019. Dark brown ale with a frothy tan head. Snoky aroma with grain, brown sugar, and earthy hops. Smoked malt dominates the palate along with some background caramel, toasted grain, chocolate, fig, brown sugar, and earthy/spicy hops. Medium-to-full body, moderate carbonation, smoke lingers through the somewhat bitter finish. Good if you like a heavy dose of smoked malt in your beer.

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Photo of Franziskaner
4.06/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black in color with moderate light penetration. There’s a half inch of creamy beige on top. The aroma is of smoke, dark malt, and black licorice. The mouth is dry and lightly oily.

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Photo of superspak
4.13/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 ounce bottle into tulip glass, bottled on 11/13/2019. Pours opaque dark brown/black color with a 2 finger fairly dense and rocky light khaki head with fantastic retention, that reduces to a nice cap that lingers. Nice dense foamy lacing clings on the glass, with a light amount of streaming carbonation. Fantastic appearance. Aromas of big milk/dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, oyster, peat smoke, leather, tobacco, brine, roasted nuts, toasted biscuit, and dark bread; with lighter notes of dark fruit, herbal, wood, grass, pepper, and yeast/roast/smokey earthiness. Damn nice aromas with great balance and complexity of dark/black/roast/bready/smoked malts, and light earthy hop/fruity yeast notes; with big strength. Taste of big milk/dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, oyster, peat smoke, leather, tobacco, brine, roasted nuts, toasted biscuit, and dark bread; with lighter notes of dark fruit, herbal, wood, grass, pepper, and yeast/roast/smokey earthiness. Light herbal, wood, grass, pepper, roast, charred bitterness on the finish. Lingering notes of milk/dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, oyster, peat smoke, leather, tobacco, brine, roasted nuts, toasted biscuit, dark bread, dark fruit, herbal, wood, grass, pepper, and yeast/roast/smokey earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Awesome complexity, robustness, and balance dark/black/roast/bready/smoked malts, and light earthy hop/fruity yeast flavors; with an awesome roast/hop bitter/sweet balance; and no cloying, acrid, astringent flavors after the finish. Lightly increasing dryness from lingering hop/char bitterness. Medium carbonation and body; with a very smooth, creamy/bready/grainy, fairly sticky/chalky, and lightly resinous/saline mouthfeel that is great. Minimal warming alcohol for 6%. Overall this is an awesome American smoked porter. All around awesome complexity, robustness, and balance dark/black/roast/bready/smoked malts, and light earthy hop/fruity yeast flavors; very smooth and easy to drink with the modestly bitter/drying finish; nicely soft and not overly bitter/charred. Awesome balance of rich malts and peat smoke complexity; with solid earthy hops and restrained fruity yeast. Light residual sweetness from lingering dryness. A really enjoyable offering, and impressive spot on style example as expected of the brewery. A lot of peat and brine smokey notes, but not overwhelming.

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Photo of BillRoth
4/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Nicely well crafted smoked porter. Ham and beech in a classic build and body porter. Very enjoyable light but decently smoked brew. Not as complex as a good German rauchbier / lager and not as deep as a bigger smoked porter but delicious example nonetheless

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Photo of kojevergas
3.5/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Currently rated #40 in the Top Smoke [sic] Porter beers list.

BOTTLE: 12 fl oz format. Brown glass. Black pry-off crown cap. Packaged 11/12/19. Shelf life: 6 months. Leaves of grass series.

6.0% ABV. Brewed with German smoked malt, chocolate malt, and roasted malt. Original Gravity: 1.014.

APPEARANCE: Head is a khaki colour. ~8 minute head retention. Body is a deep dark auburn-black (red hues are evident when held to light). Hard to say if it's filtered or not given its opacity.

AROMA: Smoked malt (I'd bet on Weyermann - beechwood smoked malt). There're no hickory or oak aromatics to the wood smoke. Beneath that, I have to search to find roasted barley and chocolate malt, but when I know to look I can find them (I doubt I'd be able to do so in a blind taste test).

No overt hoppy or yeasty notes. It's all smoke and malt.

TASTE & TEXTURE: Smokey but not harsh or aggressive, leaning towards the meaty side of smokiness. Some more overt wood flavours would be welcome; this tastes more neutral like beechwood instead of committing to a wood with more character like hickory, oak, cherrywood, et al.

Malts are the name of the game here, eschewing any hop flavour in favor of roast and dark malt sweetness. I can't say the specialty chocolate malt is as overt as would be ideal, and I do find myself wondering if a piney hop flavour would be better suited to this beer than its simplistic malt emphasis.

The smokiness is shallow and surface-level in comparison to the depth of smoke found in the best rauchbiere (e.g. Schlenkerla) or smoked porters (e.g. Alaskan's), but this is nevertheless an enjoyable and dareisay balanced smoked porter. With so few breweries even attempting the (sub)style, it's always nice to see another expression thereof - but one does expect a certain excellence from Bell's (if only because they so often deliver it) that just isn't found in this beer.

A bit dry and a bit coarse, but not as much as one might expect. Sure, it's unrefreshing, but it drinks very easily considering it's a beer brewed in a style often viewed as harsh or aggressive. A bit thin, and it does parch the palate. A bit more body would help it feel more robust and would give it the full commanding presence on the palate it needs to really champion its smoky flavours (which could be amped up along with its body). Needs a stronger mouthfeel. It's well carbonated in any case. Not the ashtray-licker of a beer one might fear.

OVERALL: Smoked beers are a personal favourite of mine, but the secret to a truly great one lies in the subtlety of the wood character and the countering of any smokey harshness with either pungent hops or malty sweetness (or both). This manages the balance decently, but the intended chocolate malt character perishes in its battle with the dominant smokiness, and unfortunately it doesn't really delve into the nuances wood can provide, instead clinging to a somewhat generic beechwood-led smoke character.

I'd love to see Bell's smoke their own malt with a more interesting wood (or source from a maltster which has done so), play with piney hops, try incorporating more mellow malts (why not wheat?), and bring more overt chocolatey flavours into the fold (brew with more chocolate malt, or use actual chocolate/cacao nibs) and consider oak or even used liquid smoke barrel barrel-aging.

Nitpicks aside, it's a drinkable smoked porter - which is itself an achievement. I'll enjoy my sixer, but it's not a beer I'd select over Alaskan's far superior expression of the style. Still, as a smoked beer lover, it's always great to see another one hit the market.

High B- (3.50) / WORTHY

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Photo of hman43
4.05/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Look: It pours dark brown with a tan head. Head retention is low.

Smell: It has a deep, smoky aroma with wood notes and a bit of bacon.

Taste: It has smoke flavor with a bit of wood and bacon. There are also some chocolate flavors with slight roast.

Feel: It has a medium body with the smoke lasting well into the finish.

Overall, a porter with lots of smoke flavor to go with it.

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Photo of rypkr
4.45/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Fantastic. I'm a smoked beer and rauchbier fanatic and this does a smoked porter justice. So many smoked beers only flirt with smoke, this beer dives right in head first. I love the meaty, hammy essence it takes on with the finish. Not oakey or ashy, pure barbecue. Only complaint is it drinks thin but in no way a deal breaker. I might go back and buy a case of this since it's so hard to come by a good smoked beer.

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Photo of beergoot
3.93/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Dark brown body; thick and sculpted head, dense and foamy; Mild smell blend of charred grains, chocolate and wood ash. The taste follows along the lines of the smell; the smoke flavor just a tad more prominent; some bitterness bite. Heavy body; smooth and slick; relatively heavy sweetness on the palate.

All in all, this is a fine porter, not to heavy on the smoke (I personally would prefer a stronger presence), rich and flavorful with the malt base. A very nice offering from Bell's.

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.62/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

As the December edition of their Walt Whitman series rolls out into the marketplace, it gravitates toward "to a locomotive in winter" phrase, and doing so with a synergy found in an American Porter with a smokier tone.

So the IV installment, "To A Locomotive In Winter" takes the Leaves of Grass series into the darkness with a robust nearly black shade of brown. As a frothy honeycomb structure builds upon the rim, an overwhelming scent of smoke rolls off the dark ale and onto the nose. Malt sweetness relaxes the early palate with suggestions of caramel, toffee, dark chocolate and toasted marshmallows in its initial sip.

As the malts skirt across the middle palate, the sweetness starts to relax and the finer nuances of coffee, cocoa, walnut and burnt toast rise above the caramelized grains and usher in the smokes malt additions that are waiting in the wings. Billowing smokiness takes on the proportions of smoldering cynders, brushfire and coal. Hop bitterness is moderate and is easily mistaken for a coffee-type of bitterness as the late palate comes to a close.

Medium full in body, the "Americanized" character of the beer shows its elevated alcohol, drying nature of char and hop spice to add a sense of drinkability, lightness and palatability. But in the end, its the enormous character of smoke that dominates the session, rendering the beer to that of ash and campfire.

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Photo of Wolvmar
3.78/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Dec 15 2019.
12oz bottle dated 11-12-19. Poured into a tulip glass.

Pour: black with two finger tan head. Ends with a lot of clouds and bible lacing.

Nose: dark roast, slightly burnt malt, dark chocolate. Smokey but not over the top.

Taste: charred wood, deep roasted malt, bitter chocolate. Slight vanilla like sweetness behind it.

Mouthfeel: full bodied but not thick. Moderate carbonation. Clean finish.

Overall: like it but, as previous review said, one feels like enough. Give it a try but maybe start with a single.

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Photo of GuyFawkes
3.9/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottled 11/13/19; drank 12/15/19 @ the Yarchives.

Black appearance.

A rough pour yielded a big khaki head; strong, frothy lace.

Bacon, peat, faint cream & faint fresh earth notes in the nose.

Creamy medium mouthfeel.

Bacon, peat, cream & mild fresh earth flavors.

This was balanced, if a hint too smokey; enjoyable, but one is enough.

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Photo of russpowell
4.18/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a very effervescent chestnut with one finger of tan head. Superior lacing & head retention

S: Smokey as all get out

T: Smokey, roasty, dry, faint baker's chocolate & woody hop notes up front. Dryness, roastyness & smokey are all on display as this warms. Finishes really dry, smokey, with woody bitterness, & a little residual sweetness

MF: Medium body, fairly firm carbonation

Solid take on the style, Alaskan Smoked Porter is still the Mac Daddy

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Photo of lordofthewiens
4/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark red/brown color. Small tan head with a bit of lace.
Strong smoke aroma. Roasted malt, a little molasses.
Smoke dominates the taste throughout. Cocoa and molasses.
Medium mouthfeel. Nice winter beer.

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Photo of ovaltine
4.04/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Pours black with liberal leakage to mahogany on the edges and a dense tan head. Gorgeous beer. The nose has some smoke, a nice chocolate note, and roasty char aromas.

The smoke is right up front on the taste, but not overwhelmingly so, which leaves room for th chocolate and roasty char flavors to maneuver. The mouthfeel is full and substantial, perfect for a porter.

Bell’s is one of my favorite breweries, and this beer is another example why. A great sipper for the winter months, I shall purchase multiple 6ers to accompany me into spring.

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Photo of Roguer
4.03/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big frothy tan head atop a wonderfully dark black body. Retention is excellent, as is lacing.

Tons of smoke on the nose, nearly drowning out the rich chocolate, toast, and molasses notes of the malt base.

Very flavorful, with the smoke dancing around the malts, yielding rich woody tones, vanilla, bitter chocolate, pine, leather, grape, grass, burnt toast, espresso. Tons of flavor for a 6% ABV brew.

Creamy and smooth on the palate. Excellent body and feel for the ABV.

While this isn't as good as some of the great smoked beers of Germany, nor up to Alaskan's legendary smoked porter, it's a very good beer. It doesn't go light on the smoke, so that has to be a flavor you enjoy in your beer.

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Photo of BB1313
3.79/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Bottled on 11/13/19. 12oz bottle poured into a tulip. Pours almost black with a nice khaki head that falls leaving great retention and sticky lacing. The aromas have lots of smoke. Some peat most. Some cocoa along with some mild hints of vanilla. Malts are there. The flavors basically follow the nose. More smoke leading the way, especially in the finish. More peat moss. Some dark chocolate. Some roasted characteristics. Solid bitterness. Malts do their thing. Alcohol goes unnoticed. Mouthfeel is medium-bodied with moderate to active carbonation. It's sharp, fluffy, slightly creamy and velvety, smooth and easy to drink.

This is a nice "smoked porter". They deliver on what you would expect from the style. It's fitting for the cooler weather. Well done.

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Leaves of Grass Series IV: To A Locomotive In Winter from Bell's Brewery - Eccentric Café & General Store
Beer rating: 87 out of 100 with 53 ratings