Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bell's Brewery's Hopslam

"You know I dreamed about you
For 29 years, before I saw you
You know I dreamed about you
and I missed you, for, 29 years"
-The National

All collectors and hobbyists have a "Grail", an article or item that they seek above all others. They have seen pictures, heard stories, and read articles about it. They dream of the day when they get to see and experience the object of their desires, whether it is a 1953 Corvette, a wedge of Roquefort cheese, or an Inverted Jenny. For the last several years, Bell's Brewery's Hopslam has been the Grail for this enthusiastic beer enthusiast. The first time I heard of it, I asked for it by name at a local bottle shop. Much to my dismay, I was informed that Bell's does not distribute to Upstate New York. My first tasting of Hopslam would have to wait. Thanks to the generosity of a very dear friend, I was recently shipped 3 bottles of this beer that I now have the good fortune to taste.

The beer comes in an appropriately colored light green labeled bottle, with a hop-man character as its logo(or a man with a big hop on top of him, I can't tell). This is considered a Double, or Imperial IPA, which means that it is aggressively hopped and has a higher alcohol content than typical beers. Coming in at 10%, this beer weighs in at over 100 IBUs(International Bittering Units). As a point of reference, Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale is measured at 37.

Hopslam pours innocently enough, with a translucent golden hue and an understated lacy head. I choose a tulip glass in order to concentrate the aroma of the beer that I expected would be quite impressive. The first thing I did was smell the cap, and right away I knew I was in for a hop explosion. The aroma of this beer is unlike any I have had before. As a novice homebrewer, I can accurately describe the smell of this IPA as similar to the smell of a handful of hop pellets before being thrown into a boiling brew. I wish they made incense that smelled like this. Flowery, fruity, woodsy, fresh, delightful.

The first sip of this beer is like a firm handshake from an old friend. I feel as though I have had this beer in a previous life. It is as though I have had this experience every night of my life, and it is my favorite and most treasured memory......and yet we have never met.

Of course there is a large blast of hoppy bitterness as Hopslam first meets your tongue. This impressive feature alone would be enough to make this beer a favorite of hop heads everywhere. Where many DIPAs fail to follow through on this up-front "bitter awakening", however, Hopslam succeeds in providing an effective 1-2 punch of hop and malt. The sweet, syrupy, multidimensional malt backbone is a meal. It is here that the Hopslam lives up to its hype. You can put as much hops as you want in beer. Many breweries have gone down this road, not recognizing that the massive hop additions of this modern hop-crazy beer world must be balanced by an equally massive malt bomb, in order to leave the drinker with that warm, rounded, satisfied finish. Hopslam has the goods(malt) to back up the hype(hops). It is as though the hops throw up an innocent arching toss, and the malt comes in and SLAMS THAT S THROUGH THE RIM. Thus the name, Hopslam. The finish has a delightfully sweet and tangy lingering effect, which lets you know that this is indeed a higher than average alcoholic beer.

I have built up this brew in my mind, and I was unsure if it would live up to my expectations. I tried not to let my prior thoughts impact my opinion of this beer. As soon as I tasted it, I forgot what I even expected out of this drink. I was immediately reminded of all the great beers I have had in the past, and tried to place it among them. I am not one for ranking beers, but if I were, this would be near the top. It is on the same plateau in my memory reserved for such legends as the Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout, the Rochefort Trappistes 10, and the Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine. In a tribute to collectors and enthusiasts everywhere seeking after their Grail, I give this beer 10/10 Inverted Jennys. If you love hops, you must try this beer. Find it at any cost, and bring home a case if you are ever in Michigan and it is available. I also have two more, and am willing to entertain interesting offers....

Thank you Jenny.

Thank you Brian W.

Thank you Bells.

1 comment:

  1. I also had the pleasure of trying this beera and must say it was as advertised