“Malt Beverage brewed with Birch Syrup, Honey, Maple Syrup, Juniper Berry, and Elderflower.”
(Editors note: we’ve stockpiled enough Bell’s Eccentric Ale 2008 to review it every so often to see how it is developing, aging and changing. Feel free to read through from the year old tasting to the most recent review. However, if you’d like to jump around, be our guest, and read more about Bell’s Eccentric Ale after one year, three years, four years and five years in the cellar.)
Ryan: Whenever I see a one-off beer from Bell’s; whether it be an eccentric ale, a batch series beer or the occasional treat like a bourbon barrel aged cherry stout (which we’ll be sampling soon), I suspect it will be overly…everything.
If it is made with syrup or berries or honey than it is going to be overly sweet. If it is a hopped up American Strong Ale than it’s really a HOPPED UP American Strong Ale. To that end I really wish I had the tasting notes from this beer when it was fresh. I recall happening across it during a trip to Michigan when I randomly popped into Bell’s General Store. When I got back to Chicago I split a bottle with Andrew, but not because I wanted to be a good friend, because this beer was so incredibly sweet that I couldn’t drink more than a half of a bottle.
Sadly, I don’t recall any specifics – just that it was really, really sweet. Needless to say I was intrigued to crack this beer open after it had some time to sit in the cellar and maybe mellow out a bit. And mellow it did — but just a bit.
Poured in to a pint glass, the ’08 Eccentric Ale appeared dark as night with a nice , fluffy tan head that billowed and hung out for a while – clinging to the glass and leaving its mark with each sip. Get your nose in there and you’ll get a big whiff of sweetness, syrupy sweetness. To be more specific you definitely get some of the birch syrup, some juniper (slight pine and citrus) and tree sap. Take a sip and, well, I’ll let my notes describe it verbatim.
“WOW. My palate just did a 720”
You get a lot of the aforementioned syrups; birch and definitely maple. Plus, you get a nice honey sweetness too which compliments the maple well. The mouth-feel of this beer is what kept me coming back for more. It had a certain sweet tea or cola consistency to it. But it was closer to a homemade root beer or cola than something off a shelf – less carbonation and more thickness and sugary sweetness. This beer finishes just as it starts – nice and sweet with a bit of citrus.
It’s going to be hard to let the other three bottles I have left sit in the cellar. This was above and beyond what I anticipated the ’08 eccentric ale to taste like. If you’ve been holding on to any bottles of this and were curious how it’s shaping up, I say crack one.
Wrong. Wrong. WRONG.
Fascinatingly this beer is still remarkably sweet. And also remarkably good.
The nose pops of honey, molasses, brown sugar and vanilla extract. Similar flavors flood the palate; honey, fresh plucked raspberries, Craisins and cran-apple juice. The juniper berries are still there, showing up on the finish, to give it a nice citrus-y twist.
The ’08 Eccentric Ale was mind blowing-ly sweet, still, and yet complex for what you would assume would be a one-note beer.
This may be, far and away, my favorite beer brewed and bottled by Bell’s.
Karl: Smelling quite a lot like the Batch 9,000 (which we can’t seem to say enough nice things about), this beer is just sweet, sweet, sweet with that now-familiar red grape Bells flavor tossed in with maple and juniper as well.
Quite hearty to this day and an excellent stand-in for that beloved 9k.
Andrew: You could pretty much just take any of my Batch 9000 reviews and drop that in here, because I probably couldn’t tell the difference between the two.
Loads of grape and port flavors in a beer that finishes sweet and incredibly dry.
And, shockingly, I know, I loved it.
Awesome offering from Bell’s.
Ryan: I’m not going to lie, sometimes it’s hard to describe what I taste in a beer. Sure, there are beers where the flavors jump out of the glass and it’s easy to discern what I’m drinking. Other times I struggle to pinpoint what is swirling on my palate. Bell’s Eccentric Ale ’08 fits in to the former and may go down as one of the most intriguing beers I’ve ever drank.
Before I get in to what this beer smelled and tasted like I want to touch on the appearance. This beer came gushing out of the bottle and produced no head; zero, zilch, nothing. There also didn’t appear to be any carbonation at all. The body looked thin too, although looks can be deceiving.
On the nose, the Eccentric Ale 08 smelled of cranberries, honey and cocoa powder. Take a sip and a grab-bag of flavors are revealed. There were chocolate covered cherries, fresh-picked raspberries and — I kid you not — kiwi. The honey kicks in mid-sip followed by a large torn off chunk of Hawaiian bread. Maple syrup and root beer concentrate round out this remarkably complex beer.
While this beer appeared thin it was actually quick thick; equal parts syrupy, creamy and smooth. There was in fact no carbonation whatsoever, which no doubt added to the thick mouth-feel.
Some very intriguing flavors are starting to push past the once overpowering sweetness making this a really fun cellar pull. While this beer is drinking great right now I suspect it hasn’t peaked yet and could probably stand up to a few more years in the cellar.
Don’t get me wrong, by no means is this a bad beer. But it has faded from the glorious tasting of 2014 and most likely isn’t going to be getting better.
Much like a 4-year-old pour there was no head, no carbonation and not much of a coating on the inside of the glass when I poured this ’08 Eccentric Ale — quite aggressively, I might add. Usually when you give a beer a nice swirl in the glass you’ll see some retention on the sides — a coating that slides its way back down — but I gave this beer and few swirls and couldn’t get anything to stick.
The body has kind of gone flat and, unfortunately, the rest of the beer did too.
Stick your nose in and you’ll get a good whiff of raspberries, but little else. On the palate there’s sticky molasses, sweet honey and apple butter — no kiwi, unfortunately — and a finish that reminded me of swiping a folded waffle through the last bit of maple syrup on a plate. It was a little biscuit-y and a little sweet but not too much of either.
The body was plenty hefty and, despite its age, still carried a slight alcohol burn in the finish.
If you are sitting on any more bottles of this I would suggest cracking them open now. I think this beer has peaked.