Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bell's Brewery Hopslam 2011 Release

Posted by: Stonecipher

Jan. 25, 2011

OK, so with the very first review I'm directly contradicting the name of this blog, oh well.  It's about 3:30 in the afternoon here in Chicago and I have been working on important stuff all day, plus I have this six-pack of fresh Bell's Hopslam in the fridge that is calling my name, so I think it is about that time - time for a Bell's Hopslam from Bell's Brewery.

First, some basic facts:
ABV: 10.0%
IBUs: Somewhere in the range of 69 - 136.  The debate rages on.
Brewery Location: Kalamazoo, MI
Style: Double IPA
Beer Advocate Average Rating: A/4.43 - Outstanding
My Beer Advocate Rating: A+/4.75 - Exceptional
Current Number of Reviews/Rank in the Top 20 on Beer Advocate: 2,034/3rd
Brewer's Description: Click on the Hopslam thumbnail.

Now, before I dive into this review, it is worth noting that I reviewed this beer last year as well on Beer Advocate and if you click here you'll see my BA review.  My palate was just beginning to become sophisticated enough to understand what I was drinking, but I was too stupid to know that the Hopslam was a DIPA and therefore, pretty high in the ABV department.  Anyhow, I wrote the following review before I re-read the old BA one and it is interesting to see compare the similarities and contradictions.  The one thing that stood out from the first review is the quote I used from a fellow bartender of mine "It's like they tried to fit two beers into that one bottle and somehow they fit."  Perfect description, even for the 2011 release.

Alright, without further ado, the review:

APPEARANCE:  Poured this into a snifter fairly aggressively and I was rewarded with a solid, foamy, quarter-inch thick head.  The bubbles are a mix of large and tiny with the bigger bubbles occupying the area towards the center of the glass.  The brilliant and almost completely clear golden color is reminiscent of the honey flavor that I know is waiting in this glass.  Interesting lacing, it appears to remain only on the left and right side of the glass instead of the opposite side I was drinking from and what remains are foamy pillars that stretch from the top to bottom.

SMELL:  The aroma hits the nose immediately with the Hopslam.  As soon as it is poured out of the bottle a sweet, piney, hoppy and honey smell fills the air.  As I move my nose closer to the glass the honey stands out as the dominating aroma.

TASTE:  Upon the first sip, the first thing that stands out is that this beer is more hoppy than it was last year.  True to its name, the hops slap your palate right up front, but as it sits on the tongue a sweet, honey flavor rises and falls before giving way to a bitter, but slightly piney aftertaste.  It is certainly a dryer beer than last year's release, and that, in my opinion is a good thing.  Bell's Brewery has managed to top near-perfection.

MOUTHFEEL:  Hopslam is very clearly a finely tuned, carefully crafted work of art, and while Bell's nailed the look, smell and taste of this beer, they did not forget about the feel.  My guess is that if this beer made any noise it would sound like Marvin Gaye singing "Inner City Blues".  Anyhow, back to the feel, generally, I like to feel a strong sparkle on my tongue, but the lighter sparkle, combined with an little bit of an oily feel make this beer go down extremely smooth.

OVERALL:  What else can I say about this beer?  I chose to review it first because A). it is in season and is fresh and B). it is one of my all-time favorites.  For 10% this is incredibly easy to drink.  The alcohol is certainly easy to detect, but it is so well balanced with the sweetness and hoppiness that it is easy to see how you can get into trouble with the Hopslam.  Maybe it's for the best that we only get to enjoy this delicious brew for a few months of the year.

DRAWBACKS:  There are not many flaws in this beer and you have to get very nitpicky to come up with any.  That said, the head retention and lacing could be a bit better, although that is not an easy proposition for a 10% DIPA, I understand that.  The only other thing I would change about this beer is that it could use a touch more bite on the mouthfeel.  Like I said, nitpicky.  But that's what you have to be when you're looking for drawbacks to an exceptional, near-perfect beer.

SOUND:  OK, I know beer doesn't produce a sound, but to add a little twist, I'm going to try to match up each beer to what I believe it would sound like if it could talk, sing or play some music.  To be fair, I think many of us have tried to talk to our beer at some point in the past, so hey, don't be too tough on me for this.  As I mentioned before, though, this beer is smooth, savory and sweet all at the same time and that is how I view Marvin Gaye's voice.  Given that Hopslam is one of my favorite beers it is only fitting that it would sound like one of my favorite songs "Inner City Blues".  In case you don't already have this gem in your music collection, here's a link to Marvin's "Gold" album on iTunes: 

Marvin Gaye: Gold - Marvin Gaye

Thanks for checking out the review.  Hope you enjoyed it and I hope you can get your hands on some Hopslam sometime soon.  It really is an exceptional beer.  Go ahead and leave a comment, tell me what you think of the blog, the beer or the review.  If you're too shy to do that, send me some Beer Mail on Beer Advocate, the user name is StoneTSR.  Cheers!

1 comment:

  1. A nice looking blog, mate.

    Good luck in getting it off the ground and up and running.
    I look forward to reading more.
    I'll link you to my blogroll.