Michigan’s Bell’s Brewery has a fine reputation, and I have been impressed with the few Bell’s beers that I have stumbled upon, so I was quite excited when I saw a lone bottle of their summer beer, Oberon Ale, sitting on the shelf. The Oberon Ale pours a hazy orange, with little bits of detritus floating throughout the beer, and that is almost always a good sign. It seemed to glow, as if it was ill met by moonlight. It has a wonderful bread, orange rind, and floral aroma, each of which carries over to the flavor. The wheat malts are up front and prominent and somewhat creamy, reminiscent of a hefeweizen, but without the banana and clove flavors I associate with that style. I could drink this all day, 8/10, and would except I think I had the last bottle in South Florida, as I have not seen any since this bottle called out to me like a mermaid, on a dolphin’s back, Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath, That the rude sea grew civil at her song.
More tart than sweet, Bell’s Cherry Stout is a deep dark stout with a minimal head, almost no lacing and very mild carbonation. It is packed with flavor, with chocolate and coffee malts, and the tart cherry flavor in the background. It reminded me of a sour ale more than a stout, although the coffee and chocolate malts are stout like. This is very mildly hopped, with almost no bitterness other than what comes through from the cherries. The cherry stout combination tends to be hit or miss, but Bell’s does a good job here. This is an interesting beer, 7/10.
Nick stood up on the log, holding his rod, the landing net hanging heavy, then stepped into the water and splashed ashore. He climbed the bank and cut up into the woods, toward the high ground. He was going back to camp. He looked back. The river just showed through the trees. There were plenty of days coming when he could fish the swamp.
But first he had to get the bottles of beer he had put in the river to cool. Nick pulled the now cold bottles from the rushing water and took one last look at the swamp. He may not have brought anything to read, but he was happy that he had brought the beers to the camp. He knew they would go well with the trout he caught.
Nick liked Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. It was brewed in the Lower Peninusla, far from his fishing camp, but he thought of it as a local beer. He built a fire for cooking the fish and opened the first bottle. He enjoyed the floral hops and orange peel aroma before taking a drink. He took a sip, and the flowery hops and bitter orange were balanced by some biscuit like malts. It was a crisp clean beer. He finished the bottle while the fire burnt down to coals.
Nick got the frying pan out of his pack to cook the trout. After he cleaned the trout and put it in the hot frying pan, he opened the second bottle of beer. He liked to open bottles. Nick remembered that he had placed a carefully wrapped small glass in his pack. He got the glass. It was not broken. He poured the beer into it.
Nick held it up to the late afternoon sun and watched the bubbles race up the side of the glass. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale was a hazy orange color, as richly colored as the canned apricots he had for breakfast. He took a big gulp while the trout sputtered in the hot pan, and swirled the beer around the glass a bit. “Creamy head” he thought.
The trout was finished cooking. He finished the beer while he ate. Nick was glad that he brought the Bell’s Two Hearted Ale with him, 7/10.
He could fish the swamp tomorrow.
Ringing bells are a staple of Christmas cliches. The church bells ringing on Christmas morning herald Srcooge’s redemption. Shane Macgowan and Kirsty MacColl, after a night of drinking and fighting, note that “the Bells are ringing out/For Christmas Day”. And, as Zuzu pointed out, when the bells ring out for Christmas, an angel gets its wings.
The weird thing is that I do not remember ringing bells being a big part of my Christmas Mornings. I am sure that is due in part to growing up in the suburbs, with the nearest church being about a mile away, so even if the church rang the bells all morning, I would not have heard them. The only time I distinctly recall bells ringing on Christmas morning was the year I was in London for Christmas. I walked outside that morning, and the air was filled with the peals of church bells.
Bell’s Christmas Ale* pours a hazy ruby red with a nice head and good lacing. It has a mild honey like aroma, with some piney hops as well. The malts are plum like, with the bitterness of the hops in the aftertaste balancing that initial sweetness. Unlike many Christmas beers, there are no spicy flavors. It clocks in at only 5.5% ABV, so you can drink several of these while assembling your turducken. You are making a turducken, right? And doing it from scratch, none of this mail order or store bought crap, right? If you are, enjoy this fine beer, 7/10.
*HOLY CRAP! ANOTHER BRILLIANT TRANSITION! RINGING CHRISTMAS BELLS TO BELL’S CHRISTMAS ALE! I AM EN FUEGO!
I hear so much about how great West Coast brewers are (a reputation that is generally well deserved) and living and drinking on the East Coast, I have ready access to the best beers that the Atlantic side of the country has to offer, that I tend to ignore brewers from the Upper Midwest, either because they are not readily available here, or they are not one of the glamorous names from California, Oregon or Washington. This is foolish, as there some great beers coming from the middle of the country, and Bell’s Hopslam is one of them. This is a mouth-puckeringly bitter Imperial IPA, but it is has some caramel malts to balance all of those resinous and bitter grapefruit hops. It poured a cloudy amber with a sticky head, had a nice honey aroma along with the hopped up pine and grapefruit, and had a wonderful creamy texture. At 10% ABV, you are not going to drink this beer all night long, but you will enjoy every single one that you pour, 8.5/10.
***I received this as part of my winnings from the NCAA Boxes of Beer Pool. Every single one of you should join the World Cup Edition being run by the Vice Blog. Even if you are not a soccer fan, and I am not, you probably know someone who is and who will help you fill out your brackets, and if not, just wing it. You’ll have a rooting interest in the World Cup, and if you win, you get lots of great beer to try.