Early Saturday afternoon afforded me a gift of some extra time. I decided to take a road trip to the Cardinal Liquor Store in Joliet. They have what’s probably the best selection of craft beers this side of Binny’s in Plainfiled. I was thinking about giving the readers a break and getting away from the IPAs choosing instead something a little more on the malt side and even something seasonal, like a harvest ale or some untried porter.
When I entered the store, I beelined it to the craft shelf. Hmm. About half as long as Friar Tuck’s in St. Louie but nicely stocked. I began scanning. Allagash Dubbel, Southern Tier Pumking, Avery Quadrupel and more. These were the rare beers unobtainable in Morris. Something to do with distribution, taxes or gas prices I’m sure.
The scan continued until I happened to spot a black sixpack with the picture of a dial on it. It was from Bell’s Brewery out of Kalamazoo. This one goes to 11 Ale. WTF? I grabbed a bottle and checked the label. I was holding in my hand a special release beer as the paragraph noted:
When you get to batch 10,000, where can you go? You go one louder. The deep amber color of this Imperial Red ale is complimented with a robust, sweet, toasted malt character that finds balance with a bolder, pronounced hop flavor. In other words, it pushes over the cliff to 11.
Nice. An imperial red ale. Should be perfect for this time of year. Nowhere on the label did it state what the ABV was, but the bottled on date showed that it was quite fresh: 9/13/12. That was about two weeks ago. Nice. Why hadn’t I heard of this beer? Why hasn’t someone on /r/beer said something?
I got a surprise at the register when the beer clocked in at about 20 bucks! Man, what was so special about this beer? I could have put it back on the shelf, but I remembered that old tried and true saying: “Bell’s does not make a bad beer.” I swallowed hard and handed over the cash gambling the 20 on the reputation of the brewer.
When I got back to house, I chunked the beer in the fridge and fired up the garage Mac to research this beer. Ho. Ly. Shit. Everybody in the world but me has been waiting for this beer and on some sites, the beer was still in the rumor stage. BeerAdvocate didn’t have a review or rating on this beer. RateBeer had no picture and no score for this beer. There are so far, no text or video reviews for this beer that I could find.
I seemed to be one of the first to taste this new brew from Bell’s. This one goes to 11 Ale is, in fact, a double/imperial IPA. Here we go again with another hop bomb giving readers a hint that I may be stuck in a rut. But this beer was just so damn new to the market, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
Should I do an unboxing video? Should I flaunt my possession on Fb? Hell no. I’m just here for the beer. I’ll drink it and I’ll write about it as I always do. If the beer sucks, you’ll know about it. If the beer rocks, you’ll know about it. I’ll have a ball either way. The 20 bucks spent was not yours. We all learn.
RB has the beer rated at 11% alcohol and I found this on Bell’s website:
This One Goes to 11 Ale opens with bright, juicy aromas such as tropical fruits & ripe cherries, largely derived from massive kettle & dry-hop additions of Southern Hemisphere hop varieties such as Galaxy, Motueka, and Summer. The citrus & resinous pine notes of the Pacific Northwest hop family are also well represented, making their presence known through Simcoe, Citra, and the newly released Mosaic varietal, just to name a few. A wide range of specialty malts anchor the hops in this Imperial Red Ale, contrasting the assertive bitterness & juicy aromatics with a robust, toasty depth of flavor. Fermented with Bell’s signature house ale yeast, This One Goes to 11 Ale finishes with a lingering warmth.
Interesting. An 11% DIPA that’s fresh to the market and here I am worried about boring the readers and getting into a rut. Let the drinking begin.
The beer poured with a nice, clear, dark amber color and the off-white head rose up to about 3/4”. Carbonation was medium and the bubbles tiny. The aroma carried some deep hop smells with some grapefruit in there and other fruits, whether they be citrus or tropical remained to be tasted.
The body of the beer was medium to heavy and sweetness entered right away. The swallow was truly amazing. Rough and barbed wire in its intensity, the throat reeled as if to say “What the hell was that?” Strong hop flavors dominated the back end of the tasting and brought up memories of fresh pine needles and a few yellow fruits. Sorry, no cherries. But man, the swallow was almost brutal in its bitterness. The IBUs must be out the wazoo.
The front of the beer tasting had the rich, sweet malty flavor with a nice sweetness that was not overbearing at all. It was the swallow that hit the hardest. This was quite an amazing beer.
The back of the throat seemed to get a bit raw after some sips. May be similar to swallowing a stripped and dried out chunk of corncob. The sensation faded after a few minutes, only to be brought out again by the next sip. But as the sips continued, the throat sensation became inured to the tastes and me and my yap settled into a state of blissful analysis.
I was trying to remember what Bell’s Hopslam tasted like. After rereading my review of Hopslam on 1/12/11, I came to the conclusion that this 11 beer takes that flavor, tones down the grapefruit and ups the pine while increasing the IBUs by a maybe +10. I’d even say the front malted sweetness was amped up as well. Now this beer was not merely a platform for a hops demonstration. This was a well thought out recipe blending the range of flavors perfectly across the taste spectrum. But that hopsmack at the end… yeah, buddy!
The beer left very little lacing along the inside of the glass. After each sip, as the glass was tilted back upright, what lacing there moved slowly down the side and back into the liquid. It reminded me of the “legs” that Sam Adams Utopias had, but not quite as pronounced.
As the beer warmed up, the flavors mellowed and played real nice together. This was prime sippage right from the git-go. A slight bit of stomach warmth reminded me that this was indeed, a big beer. Sitting at 11% alcohol, it should not be taken lightly. I’d recommend taking the first bottle out of the fridge about 15 or 20 minutes before pouring. Pour in the Randy Mosher style (untilted glass) and by all means, use a snifter as the glass of choice. The mouth of the glass will funnel the sweet malt aromas and hop fumes right into the nose, sip after sip.
I was surprised the Bell’s decided to package this beer in sixpack cartons. Usually, beers with a high ABV come in a four-pack for $10-$12. That comes in at about 3 bucks a bottle at the high end. $19 for this 11 beer comes in at about $3.17 per bottle. Seems about right when you find a sixer of Bell’s Hopslam for 18 bucks. Ya see, our beer goes one better. One more percent, one more dollar. This one may go up to 11 alcohol-wise, but it’s nowhere near $11.
Regardless of the price, this is a genuine taste treat that must be experienced. Step back from the grapefruit tree and embrace the lofty pine and prepare to have your tonsils sanded nice and smooth. The rest of your mouth parts will be savoring the malt flavors while the throat recovers from a hop-and-run driver.
This is a one-of-a-kind beer. If you see it on the shelf at your LBS, go into debt if you have to in order to buy this beer. It’s completely worth it. You will not regret drinking this beer. Just take it slow.
Smoothness: Sweet and smooth. Then lotsa rough.
Drinkability: Savor, savor, more, more.
Bang for the buck: Cheaper than DisneyWorld tickets for the same fun time.
Paid price: $18.99
Get it again? Hell yeah buddy!
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: Almost licoricey. Not much. You get the dry. Kind of bitter but then the bitterness goes away. A little grapefruity. Too dry though. (I think I’m married to a cat. A bad nose and sandpaper tongue.)
Spinal Tap – 11