Maker: Bell’s, Comstock, Michigan, USA
Purchased for $15/6 pack (Hollywood Market, Madison Heights, Michigan)
Appearance: Ruddy brown with a short-lived head. Leaves a thin, lacy layer of foam on top.
Nose: Toasted malt, cherry juice, faint alcohol
Palate: Easy drinking but flavorful. Relatively fruity. Sweet, toasty malt, leather, plum juice.
Finish: mixed berry, hops, roasted malt.
Parting words: Bock is a style of beer that drinks like an ale but is brewed like a lager. It’s also one of my favorite styles. Bock has a long history in Germany but was hard to find in the US for many years. The microbrewer movement changed all that and now almost every small brewery makes one or more. The story goes that the style was originally made in the Lower Saxon town of Einbeck, but the name was corrupted to ein Bock (a billy goat) by brewers in Munich. That story sounds fishy to me, but beer history is not my field, so I’ll let it go for now. At any rate, most bocks carry a picture of one or more goats on the label as a play on the name.
Doppelbocks (i.e. double bocks) are brewed at a higher ABV than the standard bock. They usually have a name that ends in -ator as a tribute to the first brewers of the style, the Paulaner Franciscan friars, who called their beer Salvator. Consecrator is a good example of the style, but as noted above it shows more fruit than most. It still works very well, though. I don’t normally buy beer that’s this expense (I admit that I probably overpaid), but this one is just worth the price. Consecrator is recommended.
Maker: Bell’s, Comstock/Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA
Style: American Pale Ale.
Notes: 100% malted Michigan two-row barley, Michigan and Northwest US hops.
Purchased for: $10/6 pack
Appearance: Old gold with a big frothy head and a bit of sediment in the bottom.
Nose: Hops, creamy malt, dried flowers, tea.
On the palate: Full bodied and well balanced. Fruity malt and then the hops take over in a big way.
Finish: Dry and spicy, a quick shot of fruity malt and then hops until the whole thing fades away.
Parting words: Bell’s Christmas Ale is an unusual holiday beer because there’s nothing particularly holiday-ish about it. It’s just a good hearty pale ale. It goes very well with food, even rich food that one has around this time of year, so maybe that’s the idea. Or maybe it’s that it reflects the experience of a typical holiday family gathering. It begins sweet but ends in lingering bitterness. I may be over thinking this a bit.
At any rate, it’s quite tasty and the local angle in the malt and hops adds interest and softens the blow of the price which is a bit on the high side. Bell’s Christmas Ale is recommended.
Maker: Bell’s, Kalamazoo/Comstock, Michigan, USA.
Thanks to Brian for leaving three of these at my house!
Appearance: Dark coffee brown with a creamy beige head.
Nose: Semi-sweet chocolate, apricot.
On the palate: Full-bodied, creamy, and slighly fizzy. Chocolate brownies with raspberry morsels mixed in while drinking a cup of Ethiopian Harrar coffee. I know that sounds nuts, but 1) that’s how it tastes and 2) Shut up.
Finish: Intense, but not heavy-handed. Like sucking on a wedge of dark (70%+) chocolate. Fades away very slowly leaving a delicious and slightly bitter coating all over the lips and tongue.
Parting words: Wow. Bell’s Double Cream Stout is a fantastic beer, probably the best stout I can remember having ever. The depth and subtlety of this beer is just stunning. I found myself wracking my brains trying to pick out flavors and descriptors for this review, even moreso than I usually do for beers! There was a lot more there than I could put into words.
For long-time Michigan microbrew drinkers, Bell’s can seem old hat at times. Oberon comes in mini-kegs and 12 packs here and I sometimes find myself rolling my eyes at the raving about Bell’s by out of state beer drinkers. “Oh you’re excited about picking up some Oberon and Two-hearted Ale today are you? How cute.” This stout shows very clearly why Bell’s has become the juggernaut (by microbrew standards) it is. Bell’s Double Cream Stout is a masterpiece and highly recommended.
Maker: Bell’s, Comstock, Michigan, USA
Style: Sour mash wheat ale.
Appearance: Gold, slightly hazy.
Nose: Sour, Meyer lemon, yeast.
On the palate: Light bodied. Sour, more Meyer lemon, grains of paradise, coriander seed, lemongrass.
Finish: Quick with a little sweet and sour hit at the beginning.
Parting words: The level of sourness in this beer was a bit of a shocker at first, but by the time I got to the end of the six-pack, I enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s more complex than it seems at first sip, but isn’t so cerebral it doesn’t work alongside a sandwich. Oarsman ale is recommended.
Maker: Bell’s, Comstock/Kalamazoo, Michigan
Style: Wheat Ale
Appearance: Cloudy gold with moderate head.
Nose: Sweet, floral.
On the palate: Medium bodied. Rounded and light, a little sweet and a little fruity but dry for a wheat ale overall. A nice hit of bitter hops on the back end.
Finish: the hops persist in the finish for a long time but eventually fade.
Parting Words: Oberon is Michigan’s best known and most celebrated beer. What makes it successful as a summer ale is that it does not have some of the off-putting (to some) aspects of wheat beers. It avoids being a “banana bomb”, like many wheat beers, with deft use of hops. The sweet fruitiness wheat brings to beer is present but kept in check. Oberon is old news to many Michigan microbrew enthusiasts but it remains one of America’s finest ales. Recommended. Summer wouldn’t taste like summer without it!