I poured a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass. It was bottled on 11/4/13 and cost $2.89 ($0.24 per ounce).
Appearance: Nearly opaque shade of rusty orange/burnt umber. Pours to a
rather large, khaki, frothy head which laces and retains well.
Smell: Sweet, orange and orange sherbet-like scent. Otherwise, nose is muted.
Taste: I’m not really sure what’s the deal with Bell’s Christmas Ale.
Currently, the brewery doesn’t describe it as a Scotch Ale, though that
seems to be what it was classified as in previous releases. It’s
possible the recipe has been changed over time and doesn’t conform to
that style anymore, which is fine. I don’t care much for styles anyway,
but there’s definitely something to be said for marketing and
expectations, and as a Christmas beer, this really isn’t what I expect
with something bearing that name.
What’s ironic is the beer touts the fact it’s brewed with 100%
Michigan-grown barley, yet the hops seem to be the star of the show.
Bright, orange citrusy hops are prominent from beginning to end. Not
especially bitter, though, which makes it very drinker-friendly. The
malt base is slightly sweet with notes of caramel, but is mostly a
general bready-like composure. The palette here is not that complex, and
delivers the same few flavors over and over. Despite a slight tanginess
to the taste, the beer at least tastes pretty good overall with no
flaws or off-putting features. I can honestly recommend it, but as a
standard amber-like ale and not as a Christmas beer.
Drinkability: While Bell’s Christmas Ale doesn’t seem to work as a
holiday brew, it does deliver as advertised as being a "sessionable"
beer. The mouthfeel is cold, thin, rather tepid, but extremely smooth.
It’s even refreshing for a moment as it crosses the tongue. At 5.5% ABV
it’s a nice medium-bodied beer, that could theoretically be sessioned,
but one serving is probably enough for most drinkers.