Total Score: 89.0
For my fourth beer of Christmas is Bell’s Winter White Ale from Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Although the Bell’s name is relatively new, having been changed from the Kalamazoo Brewing Company in 2005, these guys have been making good beers for a long time. Kalamazoo was founded in 1983 and was originally a homebrew supply store. They started selling their own beer, which was brewed in a 15-gallon kettle, in 1985, and have been going strong since. Today they distribute 22 different beers to 18 states, DC, and Puerto Rico, and serve dozens more as pub-only specials in their acclaimed Eccentric Café. Much to my delight Bell’s is adding a canning line to their facilities and plans to start selling canned products in 2012.
Bell’s Winter White Ale is described as the bottle as a “seasonally nuanced wheat ale”. It’s brewed in the style of a Belgian white ale using Belgain ale yeast, but unlike many beers of the style the recipe doesn’t include any spices, instead relying solely on the intricacies of the yeast itself to produce these flavors. Gracing the label is a tranquil winter scene painted by local artist Conrad Kaufman.
From a bottle marked as batch #10794, bottled on 11/15/11, Winter White pours a hazy, milky, dull golden-yellow with lots of bubbles and a creamy white 2-finger head that fizzles away, leaving no lace. Smell is an intense yeasty fruitiness with abundant pineapple, orange, banana, and bubble gum. A tropical paradise…maybe they should call it Winter Vacation. Spicy smells are lighter but certainly there – definitely some clove and coriander-type smells. This is some special yeast to produce these smells without any spices in there. Taste mirrors the smell for the most part, although the spices might be a bit more prominent in the taste. Fruits come across with a smooth, sweet creaminess that is pleasant. Hoppy bitterness nips the tongue just enough to let you know they’re in there. Body is creamy and notably full for a witbier, but well balanced by ample carbonation that lifts it off the tongue. It goes down easily, and at 5% knocking down a few of these would be a breeze.
Although this is far from what you think of as a winter beer, I’d take it over four annoying birds any day. It’s actually a refreshing change of pace when your tongue is just about exhausted from being relentlessly assaulted by the legions of cinnamon and ginger deployed by most other winter seasonals. Oh, and it’s a pretty tasty beer in general too.
Look: 8/10 Smell: 9/10 Taste: 9/10 All-Around: 9/10