12/13/20: Bell's Brewery, Inc.'s Old Fashioned Holiday

11:19 AM

Today we have a treat: This is the priciest beer I'm consuming this holiday season. The 12 ounce bottle I'm about to break into ran me $6.39. It's a BBA version of Bell's Christmas Ale, which I drank and wrote about here (that's the new recipe that Bell's uses by the way, which they're still holding strong to here in 2020).

I won't lie to you--I was ecstatic when I found a single bottle of this being sold. This is one of two beers I'm doing this season that I didn't think I'd be able to find, so stumbling across this bottle in the wild was exciting. Let's get to it: Bell's Old Fashioned Holiday.

Bell's, founded by Larry Bell, opened as a homebrew supply store in Kalamazoo, MI way back in 1983. Larry sold his first commercial beer two years later. The rest is history. Now, Bell's is a household name, spoken of, usually, in the same breath as US macro beers. All of my grandparents recognize the name. Bell's, even outside of the world of craft beer, is big. Here's their "Our Story" page if you want to read about how the last thirty-five years led them to 2020.

Old Fashioned Christmas ale is, like I said, a BBA variant of Bell's Christmas Ale. It's seen, according to this official page, the addition of cherry and orange peel, all of which is doubtlessly meant to invoke an old fashioned, the cocktail. Old Fashioned Holiday, the specialty ale, is a 10.8% ABV celebration of the season. Let's see how it drinks.

My parents make chocolate-covered cherry cookies each Christmas season, kind of like the ones detailed in this recipe. I tell you this because those exact cookies taste like Old Fashioned Holiday's bouquet. Big, deep chocolate notes, cherry, the sweetness of the orange peel and the vanilla bourbon warmth (the orange peel and bourbon barrel combine into an almost amaretto quality), it's heavenly. The booze and oak are here, too, decadent and delicious. Purrl, who gave my bottle fourteen whiffs, is as infatuated with the ale's aromatics as I am. This smells like Christmas in a way no other beer I've had has before.

The ale doesn't taste like a chocolate-covered cherry cookie. It tastes like a BBA scotch ale with adjuncts of cherry and orange peel. It's all caramel and fruit, vanilla and oak, bourbon and chocolate. While the flavor profile doesn't scream Christmas at the same volume the bouquet does, this is still a decadent treat of a beer.

This drinks, to the shock of nobody, like a scotch ale. It's smooth and quaffable. Dangerously so, especially given the ABV.

When I was a kid, my dad kept a box of dried wood in our garage, one that he'd occasionally break into for a fire in our fireplace. Those fires would usually happen around Christmas time. Bell's says in the beer's writeup (linked above) that it's a perfect fireplace sipper. I imagine that's quite an experience.

I don't have a fire roaring in our stove because it's a little too warm for one today (that, and I'm out of kindling). But, as night rolls around, I might have to see what I can do. I doubt I'll have anything left in this bottle by then but you never really know.

Bell's Old Fashioned Holiday is a truly special ale. The brewery took an incredible winter warmer and worked some sort of holiday magic on it. This is my first 10/10 beer this holiday season. The ale, pricey as it is, gets my absolute highest recommendation. 

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