I had the inkling to perhaps get into the Christmas spirit this early in the month. Off to Joliet for some fine craft beer selections in number. Destination was Cardinal as usual. I found my starting point at the head of the aisle and began my slow walk and scan process.
I have discovered that while the New England style IPAs are gaining in popularity, many of the brewers of the beer have decided to regress to the Yellow Submarine style artwork with curvy lines and pastel colors. It was hard to discern the printing for the garishness of the colors.
Nothing spoke to me on my first pass. I reversed direction and scanned lower. That’s when I happened upon Bell’s Christmas Ale. Perfect. I’ve had this beer before but memory gets cloudy the older you get. The price was right. I snatched a sixer and paid the man.
Back home, I discovered that Bell had changed the recipe for its Christmas Ale from a spicy amber ale to a dark and hearty Scotch Ale. The beer of the same name went from 5.5% to a meatier 7.5% ABV. I wasn’t going to get something different even though this is the second time in a row for Scotch ales. It would, however, be interesting to taste Bell’s version so close on the heels of the Backwoods Bastard.
I’m not really interested in researching once again, the shilling ratings for this style of beer. Also, I don’t know the exact point where a Scottish ale ends and a Scotch ale (Wee Heavy) begins, but I’m willing to bet that the subject has been discussed many times by beer geeks worldwide.
Enough jibber-jabber. Let’s drink some beer.
The brown liquid poured into the glass and and immediately raised up a whole bunch of thick, creamy beige foam. The liquid was slightly hazy when held up to the light and it had a nice reddish color to it. The aroma was sweet and malty.
The first sip was quite interesting. I was expecting the dark malty flavors of a Scotch ale, which I got. But the sweetness reminded me a bit of a brown cookie. Not a Christmas cookie, more like a butter cookie. I don’t know if that was intentional by Bell or not. At the swallow, a little bit of earthiness comes up for a short while and then goes away.
This Christmas Ale is easier to take than Backwoods Bastard. Where the Bastard checks in at over 11% ABV, Bell’s Christmas Ale weighs in at 7.5%. It’s slightly less sweet but the taste is right on the money. Oskar Blues’ Old Chub will give you an additional .5% but would tend to go a bit overboard in the sweet department.
I’m a Belgian strong dark guy. But I must say that I prefer the Scotch and Scottish ales over the porters and stouts. Maybe it’s the roasted malts in the latter two that I don’t particularly care for here in my old age. I do believe I’ll be revisiting this style more frequently in the coming months. I may even give Old Chub another run for my money.
If you’re thinking of getting a winter warmer for the Christmas holiday, think no further than Bell’s. This Scotch ale will warm the heart and tickle the toesies on a frosty night in late December. A great Scotch ale to go along with your Scotch pine Christmas tree.
Style: Scotch Ale.
Taste: Slightly sweet malt and caramel with a dash of earthiness.
Smoothness: Goes down real easy.
Bang for the buck: Par for the course.
Amount paid: $10.99 for a sixpack of 12-ounce bottles.
Get it again? Why, yes.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: (Sniff) It doesn’t smell real super strong. (sip) Almost… (sip) almost caramelly (sip) a little drying but not terrible bitter. It’s not as bad as that icky one from a couple of weeks ago. (Icky? I haven’t heard that word since Ickey Woods played for the Bengals in 1988. See below.)
The Ickey Shuffle [3:11]