4.2AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 18/20
We beer geeks rarely mention how big of a role rumor and hype play into our beer-hunting, tasting
and judging processes. There are many beers out there that have made a name for themselves in the craft beer community through reputation alone, but then again there’s a fine line between word-of-mouth and hype. I was anxious to try Bell’s Hopslam Ale after seeing and reading rave reviews of it around the internet, but always wondered if it was genuine or at this point just hegemony. Now that I’ve actually tasted it I can understand why its regarded so highly, although I wouldn’t quite consider among the best of the best (but it IS excellent, though!).
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
Hopslam Ale pours to a very hazy body of marigold or tangerine orange. It’s difficult to tell how effervescent it is, although I’m guessing rather low as it produced a surprisingly small, off-white, soapy head (which lasted throughout the life of the beer and left some lacing on the glass).
The aroma is extremely inviting as it smells more like a tropical fruit juice than a beer. Grapefruit and orange seem to be the most predominant scents along with a slight piney resin character. For a beer as big as this is, there is zero alcohol present in the nose.
One of my small pleasures in life is taking my first swig of a new IPA and loving the taste. That was definitely the case with Bell’s Hopslam Ale. Just as the aroma indicates the first flavor I notice is a tart citrusy, almost juice-like taste. It’s actually quite refreshing not unlike a cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer’s day.
The beer finishes with a slightly dry, honey-like malty sweetness. The aftertaste is strong with a noticeable pine and resin-like bitterness. Surprisingly, it does not dry out the tongue the way many standard IPAs tend to do. I’m not sure of the IBU rating for this beer but I’d estimate it’s in the 60s or 70s as the bitterness is quite strong, but seems to back off on the way down.
I’m actually a little surprised the hops do not linger here. I’m also surprised the citrus flavors quickly fade and the palette becomes almost exclusively pine-like. It’s definitely a satisfying taste but it doesn’t exactly knock my socks off the way the word on the street implied it would.
I like a good "double IPA" which tends to weigh in at 8-9% ABV, but anything above that tends to border on the obese. Potent beers aren’t known for their drinkability, but Bell’s Hopslam could signal a change in the direction for brewers who want intense flavor and big body without sacrificing drinkability.
If it wasn’t public knowledge I’d bet the average drinker would not guess this beer is actually 10% ABV. There’s only a touch of warmth as the beer finishes, but it doesn’t leave a boozy aftertaste the way many bigger beers tend to do. Additionally, the mouthfeel is remarkably lighter and thinner than some standard IPAs and goes down very smooth.
There’s a heck of a lot to like about Bell’s Hopslam Ale from the great taste to the high drinkability, so I can certainly understand why it receives a 100 on Rate Beer and an A on Beer Advocate. Personally, this isn’t an all-time great for me but it was very satisfying and I think that would be true for almost every beer drinker out there.
NOTE: read and watch my 2014 re-review here: http://www.chadzbeerreviews.com/2014/03/bells-hopslam-2014-re-review.html