Blue Collar Brew Review – Bell’s Hopslam Ale 2014

Bell's Brewery

Bell’s Brewery

I decided earlier this week to visit Cardinal in Joliet to see if they had any Hopslam left. They mentioned on may last visit that were expecting 20 cases and would make it available at noon on that Friday. The day was the following Wednesday. I walked in the door and spoke to the counterman.

“Any Hopslam left?” He smiled and shook his head. They were out. All twenty cases, all 80 sixpacks were gone.

“You started selling those at noon on Friday, right?”

“Yep.”

“How long did it take to sell out?”

“About a day and a half.”

“Crap.”

“Sorry.”

I perused the shelves for a short while and settled on one sixer of Lagunitas Sucks to get me through thinking about a review beer later that night.

On the way to Joliet, it was snowing and by the time I headed back home the roads were starting to get bad. I decided to avoid the Interstate and take the back way home. Enroute, I realized the road would take me right past Rt. 6 Liquors in Minooka with my friend Mike. I made the turnoff and stopped in for a visit, perhaps to pick up a few of my favorite quads or dubbels for Friday night.

A couple of bombers of Avery’s The Reverend would do me right for Friday night. At the register, I asked Mike if was able to get any Hopslam.

“Yes, I have Hopslam.”

I watched him disappear into the back room and emerge with an unopened case of the stuff. Well, I’ll be dipped. He popped it open and set a sixpack of it on the counter.

“How much are you charging/“

“$17.99, same as last year.”

Serendipity is a small package liquor store in a small town.

I had everything I needed (yes needed) and the remainder of the trip home was slow and steady.

Hopslam sixI tried to remember when the last was that I wrote about Hopslam on a Saturday night for the site and what I had said. I did a post search and found it, dated January, 2011. A lot has happened since then. I thought tonight’s review would give us (and me) a little more insight into the beer.

Saturday night happened amid more snow and it was the perfect time for a very special beer.

The beer poured with a yellow-orange color and the liquid was ever so slightly cloudy. Lots of micro-bubbles slowly rising. The pure white head came up to about an inch and it was creamy and fluffy. The aroma was a sweet nectar with a slight tinge of hops.

Hopslam foamThe first sip was amazing. Of all the IPAs I’ve had in the past year or so, none tasted like this. There was a medium mouthfeel and the taste differences, from the sweet to the bitter, seemed to be in harmony. Nothing in the first couple of sips shone through.

The hops were the key ingredient, blending in notes of tropical fruit, maybe some orange and mango, I dunno. The really yellow citrus tastes (grapefruit, lemon) were subdued. The bitterness must be a hop blend (or a Frankenstein hop kept in a secret lab vault.)

The beer is extremely well balanced, playing a scale of notes from beginning to swallow. The bitterness was certainly present and became apparent in the middle of the sip and blatant at the swallow. There were no alcohols flavors present and no heat in the stomach.

As my palate woke up in the middle of the first glass, I was pleasantly surprised at how extremely well crafted this beer was. A little bit of sweet, some nice maltiness and a buttload of hops. For an DIPA, the beer was incredibly smooth and very dangerously drinkable. The honey characteristic was present in that it seemed to make the sweetness less sharp with a slight shift in the spectrum of taste. It’d be interesting to know if the honey used and advertised on the label was bee honey or honey malts.

Out of curiosity, I Googled a Hopslam clone homebrew recipe which I have linked here. I was amazed at the total amount and diversity of hops added in the recipe. 13+ total ounces of 8 different hop varieties. And all that for a 5.5 gallon batch. Bell’s hop schedule for Hopslam must be tedious, time-consuming and quite expensive. (Maybe not, if they use that Frankenstein hop.)

All of those questioned got answered on Bell’s website where they describe in general terms what they used:

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 repertoire. 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.

Now that I’ve been around the block a few times when it comes to beers in general and IPAs in particular, I have greater appreciation for what the top breweries are doing with their beers and can see why Hopslam flies off the shelves within a day or two of delivery to the bottle shops. Hopslam ranks up there with Dark Lord and Darkness and maybe even Pliny the Younger in popularity and it’s a special time of year when Hopslam comes out.  So much so that beer stores are now on the lookout for beer hoarders, Those guys that buy up a few stores’ entire inventory and then resell it at a higher cost.

Read this short Hopslam hoarding story. There’s a reason right there not to blame the store for putting a limit on sales.

Hopslam glass

I urge you to buy your allotment of Hopslam if you can still find it. It’s a one of a kind beer and possibly the best in its style. Extremely drinkable and super-smooth, Hopslam will leave a lasting impression on your taste buds and your memory.

Indiana Jones

This beer is the golden idol that Indiana Jones replaced the sack for and got balled.

Hopslam labelThe SixPackTech summary for Bell’s Hopslam Ale:

Style: American Double / Imperial IPA
Taste: Just so nice, all the way around.
Smoothness: Sliding down a silk road in socks.
Drinkability: So awesome, you may get yourself in trouble down the road.
Bang for the buck: Apparently the same price as last year. Well worth it.
Amount paid: $17.99 for six 12-ounce bottles.
Get it again? Yes, if I see it again. Probably have to wait until next year.
ABV: 10%
Brewer’s website – age verif.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: (Sniff) Grapefruity. (sip) Dry. Very dry. But not very bitter considering. (sip) It hits in the back of the throat. (sip) It’s not terrible, but I probably wouldn’t drink a whole glass of it. Would you drink a half glass of it? No, I think I’m done. (There you have it.)

RateBeer rates.

Bell’s Brewing: Getting big, staying Small.
[5:01]

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