Christmas Ale (-2016) | Bell's Brewery - Eccentric Café & General Store

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BA SCORE
3.58/5
Good
1,759 Ratings
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Bell's Brewery - Eccentric Café & General Store
Michigan, United States
bellsbeer.com

Style: Scottish Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
The basic inspiration for Bell's Christmas Ale was to create a sessionable holiday beer, using locally grown malt, which would stand apart from the array of spiced winter warmers that are typically introduced this time of year. In contrast to many other seasonals, Christmas Ale doesn't contain any spices: all of the dry, toasted notes & subtle toffee flavors come from the Michigan-grown barley, custom malted by Briess Malting, while a blend of hops from Michigan & the Pacific Northwest lend earthy, herbal aromas

Added by BierFan on 11-06-2008

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

BEER STATS
Ranking:
-
Reviews:
541
Ratings:
1,759
pDev:
12.85%
 
 
Wants:
58
Gots:
301
Trade:
0
HISTOGRAM
 
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,759 |  Reviews: 541
Photo of kylehay2004
3.58/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had this back to back with Goose Island's Christmas Ale. Reviewed from notes.

A: two finger head on a hazy amber body.

S: lots of caramel malt, some hops which provide an earthy note.

T: caramel malts and honey. The hops add more of an earthy and herbal flavor.

M: medium body and moderate carbonation.

Overall: A nice beer but not quite to the usual Bell's standards.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
3.95/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

unique take on a christmas beer. pours a heavy amber color with an off white head 2 inches high. smells very different, like wine grapes and other acidic fruits. malty and rich. flavors of the grapes are really bold, very unfamiliar territory on my beer palate, but i like it. theres fruit without sweet, which i like a lot. also a very smooth bready malt flavor which balances everything out. mouthfeel is a little heavy for me on this one, especially as it warms. it filled me up, which most beers usually do not. overall though an excellent beer which is apparently quite hard to come by. really different flavor, worth a try for sure.

 638 characters

Photo of jaydoc
3.4/5  rDev -5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.56/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Packaged 10/6/15. 5.5% ABV per the label.

Pours a murky copper with a foamy khaki head that settles to a partial film on top of the beer. Thin rings of lace line the glass on the drink down. Tiny particles of sediment are seen suspended in the beer after the pour. Smell is of toasted malt, grape juice, grape jelly, and slight caramel aromas. Taste is much the same with toast, grape jelly, caramel, nut, and earth flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of toast and earth bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and dry mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good beer with distinct grape characteristics that I wasn't expecting from this one.

Serving type: bottle.

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Photo of Texasfan549
3.4/5  rDev -5%

Photo of Knapp85
3.68/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

After trying Bells' Winter White Ale I stumbled upon this brew. Figure maybe it would be a more logical choice for a winter brew than a White Ale. This beer poured out as a deep amberish red color with a tan fizzy head on top. So far it looks morel like a winter ale. The smell of the beer has some faint spices on the nose along with hops and malts. The taste seems to have a good amount of caramel sweetness upfront that fades into a spicy sweetness. The mouthfeel could probably be a little thicker or heavier. Overall it's not that much of a winter brew either in my opinion. I can't say that I'd have to buy it again or not.

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Photo of GRG1313
2.52/5  rDev -29.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Pours a dark orange amber with a thick and full white head.

Nose is very light, even at room temperature. There was an initial "flash" or light orange marmalade and then, literally, nothing! No nose, despiste room temperature and some swirling in a nice tulip glass.

Mouthfeel is clean and simple with nice balance and light creamy character. "Feels" well made.

Flavors are simple toast and lightly roasted grain. A modest beer that tastes like a decent brown ale. No spice character, nothing to indicate a Christmas or holiday brew.

Finish is simple light bitter coffee.

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Photo of spycow
4/5  rDev +11.7%

Photo of djrn2
3/5  rDev -16.2%

Photo of metter98
3.63/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

A: The beer is hazy dark amber in color and has a slight amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a quarter finger high dense beige head that died down, leaving a large patch of bubbles on the surface, a collar around the edge, and some lacing down the sides of the glass.
S: Light to moderate aromas of Grape-Nuts are present in the nose along with hints of toasted malts and bits of earthy hops.
T: The taste is similar to the smell and has additional hints of smoke and spices.
M: It feels medium-bodied, a little smooth, and slightly dry on the palate with a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer is easy to drink and has an interesting blend of aromas and flavors, nothing of which is overpowering.

Serving type: bottle

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Photo of Taphouse_Traveler
3.63/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Photo of oriolesfan4
3.25/5  rDev -9.2%

Photo of oline73
4/5  rDev +11.7%

Photo of kojevergas
2.68/5  rDev -25.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.75

12 fl oz brown glass bottle with appealing label art and branded pry-off pressure cap acquired at Zipp's Liquor in Minneapolis, MN for $1.79 and served into a stem-tulip. Reviewed live. Expectations are high given the brewery. 5.5% ABV according the label. Packaged 10/09/13. There's no indication on the label that it's a Scottish ale, so I'm reviewing it as an open-ended Christmas ale.

Served cold - straight from the fridge - and allowed to warm over the course of consumption. Side-poured with standard vigor as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

A: No bubble show forms as it's poured.

Pours a one finger wide had of white-light khaki colour. Nice creaminess and thickness. Retention is above average - about 3 minutes. Little lacing clings to the sides of the glass as the head recedes.

Body colour is a translucent nontransparent orange-amber. Robust. Fine floating yeast particles are visible. Average vibrance.

Overall, it's a festive looking brew that isn't unique or special. There are no egregious flaws. I'm looking forward to trying it, but nothing stands out as exemplary.

Sm: Caramalts, candi sugar, bready malts. Fruity hop character is the only noticeable hop note I find. On the sweeter side.

Not much yeast character is detectable. There's no overt alcohol presence here. Not finding any spices. No off-notes.

I was expecting some festive spices given that it's a Christmas ale, but overall it's pretty pleasant. A clean aroma of average strength.

T: Candi sugar lends it a questionable sweetness. I'm shocked by how shallow the depth of flavour is; each note is barely evocative and comes off feeling a bit empty. Bready malts, bread crust, toffee, caramel, malty sweetness. Has a vague hint of unrefined sugar - maybe brown sugar or even piloncillo. Lightly syrupy. Balanced enough, but ultimately unimpressive. Cohesive, but not gestalt.

Average duration of flavour. Subpar intensity of flavour.

Lacks discernable complexity, subtlety, intricacy, and nuance. Very one-dimensional stuff. I'm not a big fan, but it's enjoyable enough.

No yeast character or alcohol comes through. There's no spicing.

Mf: Smooth, wet, fairly syrupy. Thick and medium-bodied. Overcarbonated. Okay presence on the palate. Unrefreshing.

Doesn't suit the flavour profile all that well.

Not oily, astringent, harsh, gushed, hot, or boozy.

Dr: Not for the discerning drinker. It's downable but forgettable stuff, and is disappointing coming from Bell's. Not sure what they were after with this one, but it's a pretty mundane Christmas Ale. I wouldn't trifle with it again or recommend it to friends. Really shallow.

C-

 2,652 characters

Photo of BEERchitect
3.87/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Now after 5 of these beers into my 6-pack, I am still wrestling with it. The beer takes on the rich, malty flavors, aromas, and textures that a Scottish Ale should, but it seems too well attenuated and carries very little weight on the tongue. The flavors are very firm through the malt flavor with the caramelized toffee, light pungent earthy character. But the malts never give the phenolic rich, heavy toffee, light smoke character that make Scottish Ales worth it. Still, I cannot detract the creamy, well-attenuated malts and relatively clean flavors and aromas. The beer is lightly hopped, but picks up a lot of bitterness and light astringency from the spice additions. The finish is a bit cola-like, but otherwise both sweet and dry with an evaporative quality. A nice beer, but it's nuances are not kicking it for me.

 826 characters

Photo of WillieThreebiers
3.5/5  rDev -2.2%

Photo of superspak
4.03/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle into snifter, bottled on 10/25/2017. Pours fairly hazy/cloudy dark ruby red, light copper/brown color with a 1-2 finger dense and rocky cream colored head with awesome retention, that reduces to a small cap that lasts. Nice spotty soapy lacing clings around the glass, with a fair amount of streaming carbonation retaining the cap. Fantastic appearance. Aromas of big raisin, plum, cherry, apricot, pear, apple, caramel, brown sugar, brown bread, and toasted biscuit; with lighter notes of nuttiness, roast, herbal, grass, pepper, and yeast/toasted earthiness. Damn nice aromas with great balance and complexity of dark/bready malt, fruity yeast, and light-moderate earthy hop notes; with great strength. Taste of big raisin, plum, cherry, apricot, pear, apple, caramel, brown sugar, brown bread, and toasted biscuit; with lighter notes of nuttiness, roast, herbal, grass, pepper, and yeast/toasted earthiness. Light-moderate herbal/grassy/spicy hop and light roast bitterness on the finish. Lingering notes of raisin, plum, cherry, apricot, pear, apple, caramel, brown sugar, brown bread, toasted biscuit, nuttiness, roast, herbal, grass, pepper, and yeast/toasted earthiness on the finish for a while. Great complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/bready malt, fruity yeast, and light-moderate earthy hop flavors; with a great malt/bitterness balance; and zero cloying/astringent flavors after the finish. Light-moderate increasing dryness from hop/roast bitterness. Medium carbonation and medium-plus body; with a very smooth, creamy/bready/grainy, and lightly sticky/chalky mouthfeel that is great. Zero warming alcohol for 7.5%. Overall this is an excellent Scotch ale. All around great complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/bready malt, fruity yeast, and light-moderate earthy hop flavors; very smooth and easy to drink with the modestly bitter/drying finish. Definitely a big improvement over the old recipe. Very rich malts, balanced fruity yeast and earthy hops. Well rounded complexities. A very enjoyable offering, and spot on style example.

 2,078 characters

Photo of emerge077
3.46/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a tulip, the foamy head rose above the lip and hovered there, defying gravity momentarily. A murky auburn orange body, a skim of foam with nice drippy lacing around the edges. Coarse malt aroma, hay and tobacco leaf.

Bitter dry hops and toasted malt dominates the flavor, with a tobacco and tea leaf finish. Very mild phenols present, lending a little clove or pepper also. One was enough for me in this case. It didn't really have the peat or richness I like in a Scotch Ale. This is a lighter rendition, but also fairly bitter. Worth a try, I was glad to find a single of this new Bells beer at Vrai Amour in Chicago.

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Photo of Boone757
3.52/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Photo of zeff80
3.85/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured a clear, rusty copper color with a two-finger, khaki-colored head of foam. It left thin rings of lace.

S - It smelled of caramel, toffee and toasty malt. It had a subtle earthy quality.

T - It tasted of toasty malt and sweet caramel. There was a light toffee flavor and an earthy hop presence.

M - It was crisp and sharp with a smooth finish. It was light to medium-bodied.

D - This is a nice Christmas ale. I always like it when a Christmas ale isn't just a winter warmer.

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Photo of dbrauneis
3.51/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours a very hazy (almost cloudy) dark copper in color with some orange and ruby red highlights, moderate amounts of visible carbonation, and moderate amounts of small visible yeast particles in suspension. The beer has a two finger tall creamy beige head that slowly reduces to an even thin film covering the entire surface of the beer with a thick ring at the edges of the glass. Moderate to significant amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Overall, there is a rather light aroma to this beer with some light notes of toasted bready malts, spices, dark fruits, and yeast.

T: There is a moderate amount of maltiness to this beer - some caramel, some toasted, and just a hint of peat smoked malts.There are some lighter hints of spices and dark fruits in there as well, giving it a touch of sweetness upfront. There is a light to moderate amount of citrus/orange peel hops that contribute some light bitterness that lingers. Just a touch of yeastiness to the overall flavor as well.

M: Light to medium bodied with slightly more than moderate amounts of carbonation.

O: Not really what I expected, a little light in smell and taste for what I expect in the style - I expected something a little less generic from Bell's. Overall the flavor is pretty well balanced and enjoyable. Easy to drink because it is ind of generic.

 1,326 characters

Photo of paulish
3.5/5  rDev -2.2%

Photo of mothman
3.95/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Enjoying this beer while listening to the Kaiser Chiefs: Ruby

Poured into Sam Adams Sensory Glass.

Pours a 1 and 1/2 finger head, slightly tan. Great retention. Leaves some big lace walls. A lot of yeast sediment. Color is ruby when held to sunlight, but that is not the proper way, so it is actually a hazy burnt copper color.

Aroma: Comes of with a burnt carmel smell. Has some sweet hops as well. Very sweet malts. I am diggin' the smell.

Taste is a lot of hops which surprised me. Sweet malts. Kind or a burnt taste to it. Carmel. Pretty decent.

Mouthfeel is more refreshing than anything. A little creamy. Goes down easy and ends clean, but a little chewy. Good carbonation.

Overall, I really enjoyed this beer. It is April and not December, so that may have an influence in my ratings. That or I just enjoyed the beer. I highly recommend, but at the regular price, it is spendy. I got this on clearance which was great.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.25/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bell's Christmas ale pours a very hazy reddish amber body beneath a creamy head of off-white froth. The head retention is good, and it leaves some very nice lacing as it goes.

The nose is malty with a gently caramelish and biscuity note, a hint of fruitiness, and some minor hops (perhaps some citrusy hops?).

In the mouth it's dextrinous and decidedly medium bodied (not quite medium-full) and creamy smooth.

The flavor is as the nose suggests, with a rich but only lightly caramelish malt that's bready, a touch nutty, and perhaps even subtly toasty - smeared with leafy, herbal, spicy, and citrusy (lemon zest) hop flavors, and accented by underlying yeasty fruitiness (berries, apple) and yeastiness.

Quite enjoyable, and readily drinkable, it's a bit of a mini malt monster that's well balanced by hop bitterness, and well-accentuated by a wide range of mild yeasy and hoppy flavors. Nicely done!!!

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Photo of SocalKicks
3.5/5  rDev -2.2%

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Christmas Ale (-2016) from Bell's Brewery - Eccentric Café & General Store
Beer rating: 3.58 out of 5 with 1,759 ratings