People often ask me what my favorite Christmas movie is, usually just so they can tell me Die Hard or Home Alone is their favorite. My favorite Christmas movie is The Godfather, because its one one of my favorite movies, and it has family yadayada. I’m not really big on seasonality when it comes to entertainment, but I’m huge on seasonality when it comes to beer. Winter beers are by far my favorite; I love heavy imperial stouts, malty brown ales, crisp witbiers and so on.
Although winter has only just begun, the winter beer season is already beginning to wind down. I could go on a ten-page rant about how that pisses me off, but instead I’ll tell you about the Michigan brewery that has turned this season from a desolate tundra of wintry death, to a time of year that I actually look forward to. Most breweries have one, maybe two winter beers they regularly release. Bell’s Brewery has NINE. They OWN winter. Other breweries just hope to have a tiny sliver of the winter beer pie (mmm… beerpie).
Expedition Stout AKA Don Vito Corleone
Expedition is the Godfather of the Bell’s Winter lineup. Expedition practices the Art of War. Sure, some of the other beers are more flashy, but everyone knows Expedition runs the show. When Expedition speaks, other beers listen. When Expedition doesn’t get what he wants, a rival brewer finds a hipster’s dismembered head in his bed. Don’t mess with Expedition, or his family. And if he makes you an offer…
Style Imperial Stout
Expedition Stout pours an impenetrable midnight black color with a medium milk chocolate head. Big roasted malt aroma, chocolate, coffee, raisins, figs, and licorice. Very sweet roasted malt flavor with notes of coffee, dark chocolate, and a nice wallop of bittering hops. Despite its considerable ABV and huge flavors, this heavy brew goes down smooth. This Capo di tutti capi only gets better with age; cellar this for a year or two and you’ll be rewarded with a mellowed-out malt monster.
Baron Rating 95/100
Third Coast Old Ale AKA Michael Corleone
Barley Wine has often been called the brandy of beers, or the red wine of beers, or pretty much any other alcoholic beverage whose luxurious complexities can only be appreciated by the snooty few. Bullshit. Beer is unpretentious; only humans can make an inanimate object seem elitist. Michael was often seen as “too good” for the Corleone family business. However, despite his highly-polished exterior, we soon find out that Michael is capable of being even more cunning and ruthless than his father.
Style Barley Wine
Pours a murky amber with a quickly dissipating white head. Sweet malty aroma of dark fruit, brown sugar, caramel, and vanilla. The taste is much the same, with a dry, hoppy finish. This is another beer that improves with cellaring – what is currently a strong, slightly hop-forward ale will become a smooth, sweet caramel brew to savor as a dessert, or with a dessert. “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”
Baron Rating 92/100
Hell Hath No Fury… Ale AKA Kay Adams
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. If you have seen The Godfather Part II you need no further explanation as to why Michael’s future wife is tied to the name of this beer. Scary stuff.
Style Abbey Dubbel
Hell Hath No Fury… Ale pours a dark brown with a fluffy beige head. The nose is more like a traditional Belgian Dubbel while the taste is more like a Dubbel/stout hybrid. Aroma of clove, roasted malt, chocolate, molasses and yeast. Sweet taste of chocolate, caramel, toffee, coffee and dried fruit, with a slight bitterness from the roasty notes. Hell Hath No Fury has a lively-carbonated medium body. Definitely an interesting take on a Belgian Dubbel.
Baron Rating 88/100
Java Stout AKA Tom Hagen
As consigliere of the Corleone family, Tom Hagen is probably the only character in The Godfather who drinks more coffee than wine, whiskey and beer combined. Kind of necessary when you’re on-call 24/7 as the adviser to the most powerful man in organized crime. It’s kind of like being the Vice President of the United States, only you have to actually do work.
Pours a clear, deep brown with thick tan head. Huge aroma of freshly brewed espresso and roasted malt. This is really the closest a beer could taste like a gourmet cup of coffee. Founders’ Breakfast Stout may be a better overall brew, but Java Stout is THE beer for coffee nerds. It’s medium bodied and can be enjoyed cold or even at room temperature.
The Baron drinks it for breakfast sometimes.
Baron Rating 89/100
Best Brown Ale AKA Pete Clemenza
Ahh the old reliable caporegime, Best Brown Ale. He might not be the brightest nor brawniest, but he always gets the job done. He combines the tactical abilities to set up a hit on rival gang member while having the wherewithal to remember the precious, precious cannoli.
Style Brown Ale
Bell’s Best Brown is one of the Baron’s favorite “regular” brown ales. It’s not barrel-aged or brewed with hazelnuts; it’s just a supremely well-done, well-balanced beer. Best Brown pours a rich mahogany with a foamy off-white head. Nutty caramel aroma with a rich, malty taste. It has just the right amount of hops to keep it balanced, and a hint of cocoa flavor that makes a good companion for the season. A very nice sessionable brew.
Baron Rating 87/100
Cherry Stout AKA Luca Brasi
A mainstay in the Bell’s Winter Mafia, Cherry Stout sleeps with the fishes this year due to cold weather killing this year’s Michigan cherry crop. R.I.P.
This One Goes to 11 Ale AKA Sonny Corleone
The original successor to Vito, Sonny was known for being overly aggressive, bloodthirsty and hotheaded. He made his bones at 19 and had so many mistresses it would make Bill Clinton blush. Pretty much a mafia rock star, so this is a fitting beer to honor him with.
Style Imperial Red Ale
Although this isn’t a winter seasonal, This One Goes to 11 is replacing Cherry Stout for this post. Brewed to commemorate Bell’s 11,000th batch of beer, it pours a dark, clear amber with a foamy white head. This One Goes to 11 has a dank hoppy aroma, with notes of grapefruit, pineapple, with a bit of pine and caramel. Tastes of citrusy hops, resin, with a toffee malt backbone. This One Goes to 11 goes down smooth despite its high ABV. I’d love to see the brew become another seasonal for the Bell’s Mafia.
Baron Rating 90/100
Christmas Ale AKA Fredo Corleone
Always thought to be the black sheep of the family, Fredo is not what you expect when you hear the Corleone surname. Similarly, Bell’s Christmas Ale does not resemble anything associated with a typical Christmas beer; no seasonal spices or fruit, no dark, roasted malts. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with either Fredo or Christmas Ale, it’s just that average sticks out in a family full of strong characters. Watch your back, Third Coast Old Ale.
Style Scotch Ale
Christmas Ale pours a dark hazy ruby with a generous off-white head. Light sweet malt and bready aroma. Light malty taste as well, with a bit caramel and some hops in the finish. Thin body with a decent amount of carbonation. A nice winter session beer but nothing that will wow you.
Baron Rating 83/100
Special Double Cream Stout AKA Johnny Fontane
Sporting an olive oil voice and guinea charm, Special Double Cream Stout has known to seduce women throughout the lands. And men. Because its a beer not a person. And unlike Johnny Fontane, you won’t hear Godfather Expedition Stout scolding SDCS “You can act like a man! What’s the matter with you? Is this how you’ve turned out? A Hollywood finocchio who cries like a woman?“
Special Double Cream Stout is the smoothest, creamiest stout in the world. Kind of odd since it’s one of the few beers with “cream” in its name yet contains no lactose. It pours a dark brown with a luxuriously rich tan head. Aroma of coffee, caramel, and chocolate. SDCS has a moderately sweet taste of roasted malt, with a tiny bit of burnt bitterness. This brew has an amazingly smooth and creamy mouthfeel that you will make you feel foolish for drinking Guinness Draught.
Baron Rating 91/100
Winter White AKA Connie Corleone
The sweet, spoiled youngest daughter of the Don, Winter White always gets her way. Although Connie doesn’t really bring anything positive to the storyline, at least we get this famous scene on James Caan kicking wifebeater ass:
Style Belgian Witbier
Winter White, nicknamed Snoberon by some, pours a cloudy straw color with a medium frothy white head. Aroma Belgian yeast, coriander, clove, bubblegum, and sweet malt. Taste is moderately sweet malt that is balanced with the coriander spice and delectable trademark Belgian yeastyness. Very smooth, refreshing, and sessionable at just 5.0% abv.
Baron Rating 87/100