It has been a wonderful past few days, what with my trip to 5 different wineries and a brewery up in Jerome, Sedona, Oak Creek, and Cottonwood on Friday with @StenoVal for the beginning of her bachelorette party and then finally getting to meet with my new boss about my new job – which I still have to tell everyone about. But not today, that’s for another time. For now, I wasn’t planning on reviewing Bell’s Brewery Hopslam, because everyone and their mother is doing that, but seeing as my wonderful fiance decided to pick me up a 6-pack last week (and after enjoying it on tap at the Hungry Monk here in Chandler), I decided this was one review I could REALLY imbibe get behind. There aren’t many beers I would buy a 6-pack of, but after tasting this beast, I am so glad I have 4 more in my fridge waiting for me, ready to inhibit my senses at a moment’s notice.
So because everyone knows about this beer and how hard it is to get a hold of once it’s out, here’s a little background from the brewery page:
Starting with six different hop varietals added to the brew kettle & culminating with a massive dry-hop addition of Simcoe hops, Bell’s Hopslam Ale possesses the most complex hopping schedule in the Bell’s repetoire. Selected specifically because of their aromatic qualities, these Pacific Northwest varieties contribute a pungent blend of grapefruit, stone fruit, and floral notes. A generous malt bill and a solid dollop of honey provide just enough body to keep the balance in check, resulting in a remarkably drinkable rendition of the Double India Pale Ale style.
There isn’t one thing I would add to that description. It is spot on and delicious just the way they wrote it. Pretty much exactly like the beer.
Poured into my tumbler, it was a crystal clear, bright and sparkling honey-golden-amber color with virtually no visible carbonation. I managed to build a 3-finger head through a vigorous pour, but once it settled, it held a creamy 2-finger white head of fluffy soap bubbles with excellent retention. There was quite a surprising amount of lace that lined the glass in intricate sheets while a thick island of large soapy bubbles mingled with a thin covering of minuscule bubbles that covered the rest of the liquid. Hopslam carried a very nice head for such a huge Double IPA.
My nose was immediately vanquished by the aromas as I poured the beer from the bottle into the tumbler. As soon as I opened the bottle there was an enormous explosion (and I cannot stress how huge this was) of floral, grassy and citrus hops that bombarded my nostrils. The subsequent mushroom cloud offered a rich body of zesty grapefruit, sour orange, tart pineapple and even light melon notes near the edges. All of the hoppy-ness was beautifully rounded out with softer florals, fresh cut grass, and a sweet honey slathered over faint biscuity malts. Somewhere along the process of whiffing all this beer, some hints of pine managed to peek through, but they were far from consistent and stayed fairly well hidden. Overall, the scent was remarkably fresh and green – like walking through a botanical garden on a dry spring day. Even with all of huge aromas and the amount of hops that come out in the nose, nothing in the smell was overwhelming or burned. It may very well be on the best smelling beers I’ve ever had the pleasure of sniffing.
Once it was finally in my mouth (though, honestly, this was the third Hopslam I’ve had since it was released), there was a very bitter, tart, but crazy smooth wave of resiny pine flavor – or at least more than what was in the nose, though the zesty orange, grapefruit and even some lemon were definitely alive and kicking. Rather than being sharp and biting, like one might expect from a Double IPA packed with 6 different hop varietals, all of the hops were smoothed out fantastically with the sweet honey and light bready malts. Again, nothing was overwhelming or completely took out the other flavors; everything worked together perfectly, and in doing so, any trace of alcohol that might be expected from a beer with 10% ABV (holy wow) is obliterated. Due to the fact that the alcohol is so well hidden, Hopslam is very, very easy to drink, though being as smooth as it is and so well-rounded doesn’t hurt either. I did find that when the drink first hit my lips, it started off dry, but by the time I swallowed, it almost felt slick across my tongue, ending only slightly dry and with a very light bitterness that gradually died away before the next sip. Holding a medium mouthfeel with light carbonation kept it from being spicy, and even though I found it difficult to pick out the alcohol, it definitely started hitting my brain after half the glass.
In complete honesty, if you aren’t sure if you’re a fan of DIPAs or even IPAs in general, this beer is something I would recommend to all of the fence-sitters. Regardless of the amount of alcohol, both the nose and flavor come together so ridiculously perfectly that you would be hard-pressed to find another beer that might convince you that these two categories are not all that scary. Though if you manage to find a 6-pack now, I do recommend sharing it with someone, because it is way too easy to want to pop all 6 of them in a day, and we all need to be responsible This beer has been wonderful at making me forget about how I missed out on Bitches Brew, and will remain my current favorite DIPA for the foreseeable future. I don’t know how anyone could hope to make a beer half this good…nice work Michigan!