Bell’s Christmas Ale

Maker: Bell’s, Comstock/Kalamazoo, Michigan, USABells Xmas Ale

Style: American Pale Ale.

ABV: 5.5%

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.

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Closure

Maker: Greenbush, Sawyer, Michigan, USAClosure

Style: American Pale Ale

ABV: 5.9%

Purchased for: $10/6 pack

Appearance: Dark tan with a foamy head that dissipates fairly quickly.

Nose: Creamy malt, flowery hops, hint of sweetness.

On the palate: Cream on first entry, then springs into bloom. Dried flowers, coriander seed, epazote.

Finish: Fairly dry with big, brash hops. Lingers for a long, long time getting more and more bitter.

Parting words: Greenbush is a newish brewery in Southwest Michigan in the heart of wine country, the Lake Michigan Shore AVA, specifically. It’s a big, bold American Pale Ale that reminds me a lot of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale but it lacks the finesse of Two Hearted and the hoppy finish can get unpleasant when not drinking with food. I had it with a variety of foods and it seems to drink best with rich, spicy ones like sausage or pizza. Price is normal for a quality microbrew. I look forward to trying and reviewing more from this brewery soon! Closure is recommended.

White Hatter

Maker: New Holland, Holland, Michigan, USAWhite Hatter

Style: Spiced wheat pale ale

Vintage: 2012

ABV: 5.5%

Appearance: Golden with a bit of froth at the top, not much in the way of head.

Nose: Subdued. Some malt and hops with a touch of tropical fruit.

On the palate: Full bodied and hoppy. On first sip tastes like an IPA but then shifts into a mildly fruity wheat flavor.

Finish: The bitterness and the fruit fade into a lingering soapy taste.

Parting words: I’ve been a fan of New Holland for quite some time and a search of the archives will reveal numerous positive reviews of their beers and spirits. I just can’t do it with this one. It’s a part of their vintage series of riffs on their very successful Mad Hatter IPA. I have enjoyed all I have had until this one. It could be spoiled, but one would expect a beer that is vintage dated (and kept in a fridge) to be capable of aging for at least a year with positive results. At any rate, it pains me to say this, but White Hatter is not recommended.

Helios Pale Ale

Maker: Upland, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

Style: American Pale

ABV: 4.9%

Appearance: Rusty orange

Nose: Hoppy but malty. bitter and floral but balanced.

On the palate: Medium-bodied. The nose follows through on the palate. Brash hops, tempered by big malty ale notes.

Finish: Mildly sweet and slightly floral finish. The nose carries through to the end.

Parting Words: For those of us who graduated from Anderson University, when we think of  Helios we think of a pile of greenish panes of glass piled up in a twisty formation in the middle of a fountain into which squirrels used to throw themselves in the spring and then freeze to death, bobbing to the surface inside of a large chunk of ice as it thawed the next morning.

That was an unpleasant memory. Helios, on the other hand, is a very pleasant beer. It’s not as complex as my go-to Michigan pale, Axl from Millking It Productions, but it’s food friendly and easy drinking. I likes it. Helios Pale Ale is recommended.

November Gale Pale Ale

Maker: Keweenaw Brewing Company, South Range, Michigan, USA

Style: American Pale Ale

ABV: ??% (not particularly high)

Appearance: Old gold with a foamy head.

Nose: Hops, sweet hay, lemongrass.

On the palate: Medium bodied. Sweet Woodruff, malt, Meyer lemon.

Finish: Slightly citric and mild, then a big hit of hoppy bitterness on the back end.

Parting words: Keweenaw rarely disappoints, and November Gale is no disappointment. It doesn’t do a lot to distinguish itself from its heavy competition other than coming in a can. The citrus notes and slight grassiness make it a great summertime pale ale; more of a summer zephyr than a November Gale. Like most standard Pale Ales, it is also food friendly. November Gale Pale Ale is recommended.

Angler’s Ale

Maker: Arcadia Ales, Battle Creek, Michigan, USA

Style: American Pale Ale

ABV: 5%

Appearance: Hazy orange, big frothy head that dissipates fairlyquickly.

Nose: Oranges, raspberry, hops, fresh cut hay.

On the palate: Full-bodied, malt, breakfast cereal, moderately bitter, spicy and hoppy.

Finish: sweet then big and bitter and exuberant.

Parting Words: The Pete Sampras of American Pales. Along with Milkin It Productions’ sophisticated Axl Pale Ale, this is my favorite American Pale. Highly recommended.