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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Porter - Smoked
3.95 | pDev: 8.35%
Bell's Brewery - Eccentric Café & General Store
Michigan, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
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: 38 | Ratings: 80 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by BEERchitect:
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BEERchitect from Kentucky

3.62/5  rDev -8.4%
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.

Dec 19, 2019
More User Reviews:
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Taphouse_Traveler from Florida

3.94/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dec 14, 2019
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GuyFawkes from Illinois

3.9/5  rDev -1.3%
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.

Dec 16, 2019
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Jugs_McGhee from Louisiana

3.5/5  rDev -11.4%
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

Dec 22, 2019
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Roguer from Georgia

4.03/5  rDev +2%
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.

Dec 08, 2019
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22Blue from Kansas

3.75/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Jan 12, 2020
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russpowell from Arkansas

4.18/5  rDev +5.8%
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

Dec 14, 2019
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jlindros from Massachusetts

4.26/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pours a tan smaller fizzy head with lower to med retention, low legs and low lacing, very dark brown color

Nose brings nice smoke, little campfire smoke but mostly smooth woody smoke, roasted malts, little dark choc fudgey note,

Taste brings more smoke, smooth campfire smoke and smokey roasted malts, little sweet fruity apple or cherry wood like, dark chocolate, little fudgey, dark roast, creamy with a little lactose milk chocolate like, med bitterness, drier finish, med to higher bitterness and lingering mild smoke

Mouth is med to fuller bod, rich creamy with med creamy carb

Overall nice smokey porter, good malt characters, nice level of smoke where it's definitely there but not overbearing

Mar 07, 2020
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Fordcoyote15 from Kentucky

4.45/5  rDev +12.7%
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.

Dec 21, 2019
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Zylod from West Virginia

4.25/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Jan 05, 2020
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mvanaskie13 from Pennsylvania

4.05/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a shaker pint: color is dark brown, amber edges, head is tan with fine bubbles, head presents 1/2 inch thick and then dissipates to a solid top with nice lacing on the glass sides.

Aroma is beechwood type smoke character, maybe some peat like notes of earth and grass, then quick balance of chocolate roasted malt, light toast, and light caramel malt.

Taste amps up the smoke flavor with similar beechwood like smoke, light peat earthiness, then malt to balance with notes of chcocolate, raisin, toast, earth.

Mouthfeel is crisp with moderate carbonation, lingering drying smokiness and slight sweet fullness.

Overall an excellent smoked beer, pleasant malt character to balance the smoked beechwood and light peat wood notes, malt attempts to balance the smokiness and does so quite well.

Jan 20, 2020
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JamieDuncan from Maryland

3.76/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Jan 21, 2020
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Gemini6 from Michigan

4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Apr 30, 2020
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nick_perry from North Carolina

3.3/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Strong smokiness, but no other flavors are present. Sharp, fizzy carbonation. Structure feels a little weak.

Feb 22, 2020
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Giggy from Michigan

4.16/5  rDev +5.3%
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.

Jan 06, 2020
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FBarber from Illinois

4.25/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours a dark brownish black color. Thick two to three finger head collapses pretty quickly leaving just a thin layer of bubbly foam on top of the beer.

Aroma is pungent with strong notes of smoked malts, chocolate, oak, charred wood, and some earthy hops.

Taste follows the nose with notes of smoked malts, chocolate, bready malts, charred wood with earthy hops coming through on the back end. The smoke, which dominates the nose, is expertly balanced in the flavor profile. Hops provide some bitterness on the back end that lingers on the palate.

Feel is medium bodied, smooth, drinkable, with a gentle carbonation. Somewhat drier on the finish.

Overall, this is a pretty middle of the road smoked porter - the smoke is there, but not overbearing. I personally found it to strike just the right note for my tastes. An outstanding beer from Bells, that I hope makes future appearances.

Feb 02, 2020
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Ahypercube from California

4.32/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

So I was just reviewing "Salut au Monde!" the other day and getting kinda bummed that I never found number 5 and that although I picked this up back in December, the last few got consumed at a party and I never got to review it. Then, lo and behold, I was looking through the singles at a small liquor store, and what do you know, they had three bottles of each of these!

Beautiful. Poured into a goblet, it has a dark brown body. Not totally opaque, as light penetrates up to an inch and a half through the liquid, revealing a dark coffee color. A finger of tan head leaves a wavy line of lacing around the glass, like little puffs of steam trailing behind the smokestack of a locomotive in winter.

Roasty aromas of smoked malt, lending hints of cacao, coffee and unburnt tobacco, but mostly just some really hearty, lightly-charred bread notes, reminiscent of pretzels.

The taste follows the nose perfectly. Smoke, pretzels and a hint of cacao. Very similar to La Cumbre's Malpais Stout, but lighter in both body and flavor.

The feel on this one is medium-light, with a smooth creamy middle and a slight dry charcoal finish. Excellent. If anything, it could use just a touch more body.

So glad I got to review this, and even more excited to try "Song of the Open Road" next. Cheers!

May 02, 2020
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neenerzig from Ohio

4.35/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured out of a 12 oz bottle into one of my pint glasses, this beer pours a very dark brown color with a dark amber/ruby hue when held up to the light. Has a nice, fluffy looking tan head that's about an inch thick when first poured. head eventually settles to a thick film layer of foam on the beer's surface along with a thick ring lining the inside of the glass at the beer's surface. Good lacing here too. Aromas of smokey, bready malts along with notes of chocolate and wood along with some earthy hops. The flavor profile is pretty much exactly the same, with flavors of smokey, bready malts and notes of chocolate and wood along with some earthy hops. A very nice flavor profile overall. Has a mostly crisp, yet smooth, medium to full bodied mouthfeel with moderate carbonation. has a clean finish with a somewhat dry and roasty aftertaste. I really am enjoying this beer all around.


Jan 20, 2020
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Wolvmar from Michigan

3.78/5  rDev -4.3%
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.

Dec 16, 2019
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jera1350 from Minnesota

3.77/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Dec 03, 2019
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BeerDawgs from Georgia

3.94/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A 12oz bottle with a bottled on date of 11.13.19

L - Dark brown with 1 finger of tan head.

S - Smoked roasted malt

T - Roasted malts, chocolate, smoke

F - Creamy mouth feel, medium body

O - A good smoked porter

Mar 08, 2020
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beergorrilla from Michigan

3.99/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Dec 20, 2019
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dd53grif from Michigan

3.84/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark brown with a foamy head that lasts quite a while. Smoky aroma of roasted malt. You can taste the smoky flavor but there is a bit of sweetness that turns bitter as it sits in the mouth.

Feb 22, 2020
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ajm5108 from Pennsylvania

3.84/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Smoke flavor is pretty subdued, adds nice depth but isn’t overwhelming, rest of the beer is fine if a tad bland

Dec 30, 2019
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Jcarriglio from Florida

3.91/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Jan 07, 2020
Leaves of Grass Series IV: To A Locomotive In Winter from Bell's Brewery - Eccentric Café & General Store
Beer rating: 88 out of 100 with 80 ratings