Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bell's Hopslam Ale

I admit that I often struggle to describe beers in my beer reviews.  I spend a lot of time trying to create an image of the beer in the reader's mind.  Too often, I give up that endeavor and just write a rather ordinary review.  Other people apparently don't suffer from the same troubles as I do.  They have a much easier time creating an image that sticks with a reader long after the article -- and the beer -- has been finished.  And, for some, those descriptions come a little to easy.

For example, a production manager at a brewery described one of the brewer's most popular offerings in the following way: "[imagine] if you’d gone to the hop growers association 20 years ago and said, I’m going to have a beer that we make 4,000 barrels of one time a year. It flies off the shelf at damn near $20 a six-pack, and you know what it smells like? It smells like your cat ate your weed and then pissed in the Christmas tree."  I found this quotation in a post from Appellation Beer written by Stan Hieronymus, and, it comes from Bell's Production Manager, John Mallett.  According to Hieronymus, Mallett was decribing Bell's Hopslam Ale.

The Hopslam Ale is brewed in the style of a double Imperial Pale Ale.  The brewer uses six different hops to brew this beer, although Bells does not disclose the identity of the hops on its website.  The brewers do note the "massive dry-hop addition of Simcoe hops" as part of the brewing process, which results in what the brewers call the most complex hopping schedule of any beer in its repertoire.  

The obvious question is whether the beer "smells like your cat ate your weed and then pissed on your Christmas tree"?  To find out, I was fortunate enough to be given a bottle of Hopslam Ale from a friend.  The beer poured an amber, copper-orangish color.  A good thick foam appeared and stuck around for quite a while.  I let the beer rest for a moment and two, and, then I tried to discern the aromas.  Fortunately, the aromatic elements were closer to the description provided by the brewers -- "a pungent blend of grapefruit, stone fruit and floral notes -- than the description provided by the production manager.  (Although I should note that Mallett's description was given as part of the reason for the formation of the Hop Quality Group -- a non-profit organization that communicates brewers' interests in hop aromas and the changes to those aromas to farmers.) 

For me, there was that pungent blend of citrus and floral notes in the aroma of the Hopslam.  However, those notes were restrained somewhat by the sweetness that comes from the "generous malt bill" and the "solid dollop of honey" used to produce the beer.  The sweetness served as a frame for the hops, both with the aroma and the taste of the beer.   The taste included everything I would expect and enjoy with a double IPA, a strong punch of citrus that crosses over to provide some piney notes, but the honey coats those rather astringent and bitter elements and adds a complexity that is often missing from double IPAs. 

Overall, this is an excellent double IPA, which one would expect when you are paying almost $18.00 for a six pack. If you are lucky enough to see a six pack.  It seems that -- whether the smell is like a cat eating your weed and peeing on your Christmas tree or a pungent blend of grapefruit, stone fruit and floral notes -- those six packs sell very quickly.  If you come across a six-pack, or even one bottle, it is worth the price.


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