So, on Monday night I took a break from studying for my psychology midterm the next afternoon to write this article, reviewing Bell’s Hopslam, a 10 percent imperial IPA brewed with honey.
This January seasonal release is one of the things I look forward to most in the New Year. I had to pay an arm and a leg to get two six-packs shipped to me from Chicago because the stores here in Galesburg were unsure if they would get some in, only to get some in stock after my shipment arrived. It was a decent introduction for what is decidedly one of my three favorite beers of all time, but I went to bed that night not only worried about my psychology midterm, but about how I let Larry Bell and the rest of Bell’s Brewery down by writing an average introduction for an outstanding beer.
Well, as everyone probably knows, magic happened the next day—Knox called a day-and-a-half snow day. Not only was my psychology midterm pushed back until Thursday, but I found a good way to explain how outstanding Hopslam is—it is as amazing and memorable as an unexpected Snow Day.
The appearance of Hopslam is fairly standard—light copper, fairly clear with decent lacing down the side of the glass. But Hopslam is probably one of the strongest, best smelling beers I’ve ever experienced. Just a ton of fresh hops, lending citrus, grapefruit and piney aromas. The taste follows the smell with strong, hoppy, tropical fruit flavors. I get mango, light grapefruit, citrus and pine flavors from the hops. There is enough malt backbone to support the assault from the hops. The malt and honey combine to provide a combination of sugar cookies, light crackers and a hint of honey.
The best aspect of Hopslam, however, is its drinkability. I honestly think it may be too drinkable for a 10 percent beer—it is almost dangerous to drink a beer that strong so easily and quickly. I think the super drinkability is due to the fact that, while the beer is very hoppy, it is not particularly bitter. I also think the honey provides a smooth, not overly heavy body for the beer. It is just so easy to drink. The beer finishes with a slightly bitter, dry finish, urging you to take another sip of the hoppy goodness.
In terms of hop-centric beers, Hopslam is head and shoulders above all but Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, which is probably equally as good as Hopslam. Unlike Pliny, which does not distribute east of Colorado, Hopslam is currently available at the Hy-Vee on Henderson. While expensive ($16 for six-pack or $34 for 5 liter mini-keg), it is worth every penny. How much would you pay to experience the joy of a snow day in a bottle?