Redux Review 0005: Bell’s Hopslam (Celebrating #IPADay)

Six months ago, I reviewed Bell’s Hopslam, the Kalamazoo, Michigan palate destroying limited release Imperial IPA. It proved to be a perfect beer, scoring 100 points on my rating scale, and it quickly became a beer I wanted to buy by the case.

One small problem with that: this stuff is so limited, most stores will only sell you one six-pack. Some stores only allow you to purchase one twelve-ounce bottle. The demand for this beer is insane, and rightfully so; while the ingredients are a secret, Bell’s puts the best quality in this brew, and take extra steps to make sure IPA lovers get this one as fresh as possible.

My first review of Hopslam looked like this:

Appearance: 15 of 15 points
Aroma: 15 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 35 of 35 points
Drinkability/Overall Experience: 35 of 35 points

Final Score: 100 points, or classic on my rating scale.

And here we are today, on #IPADay, drinking a Hopslam. That whole freshness bit? What gives?

I stashed one of these beers away in the dark depths of my refrigerator six months ago just for this day — just to see how Hopslam ages. The fact that six months of age falls on #IPADay is just a happy coincidence, and all the more reason for me to bust the cap on my last bottle of Hopslam for 2012!

Before the redux review, a note about #IPADay — I’ve noticed some detractors regarding the day, and they make some valid points. They say we should have a Craft Beer Day instead; that #IPADay isn’t welcoming to new craft beer drinkers because the style can be challenging to just jump into headfirst. While I see the logic behind that… IT’S JUST A DAY. I like that we have #IPADay, and I think we need more days like it. Speaking as someone who doesn’t really care for “normal” holidays… these types of celebrations call for the unleashing of beers like Hopslam, or beers you’ve been sitting on for a while just looking for an occasion to open them.

So let’s open this one. Happy #IPADay!

Pouring produced classic Hopslam: an average size head, lasting and creamy. The beer was vibrant golden with carbonation bubbles zooming to the top, and the body was cloudy with a light amount of fine sediment. The lacing was of high quality, thick and creamy, and was almost reminiscent of whipped cream.

But here’s where things started to go off, in a faded sort of way: the aroma was definitely not what it once was. Yes, the hops are still up front, but the once dominant note of tropical fruit has now given way to a strong grassy smell that is matched with some orange peel. There’s hints of the tropical fruit; pineapple and mango were present, but not in a big way. There is a touch of grapefruit, and the malts are more sniffable, presenting sweet caramel and bread.

On the taste, there’s grassy hops followed by a slight note of pineapple and orange. There was a big malt hit in the middle of the sip, sweet caramel and an almost roasted flavor that leads to a bittersweet finish which starts off very sweet, and transitions to quite a bitter bite, but it never turns medicinal or overwhelming. At 10% ABV (alcohol by volume), this one hits you with the booze in the nose, and by the end of the drink, you’re feeling it in your throat and stomach.

In short, this bottle of Hopslam, put in the vessel on 2/2/12, is not as good of a beer on 8/2/12, after six months spent in the refrigerator. The hops, while not disappearing completely, have faded in such a way that if you’ve had this beer fresh, you might not like the results. That being said, this is still a good beer, and some people might actually like the age on a big ABV Imperial IPA — but I happen to enjoy this one much more fresh.

This was an interesting #IPADay experiment, and it leads me to this proclamation: ATTENTION BELL’S BREWERY: Make Hopslam year-round, so we can enjoy it fresh all the time!

Shelf life on Hopslam? I’m thinking you need to enjoy it within at least three months of the date on the bottle.

In redux:

Appearance: 15 of 15 points
Aroma: 12 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 30 of 35 points
Drinkability/Overall Experience: 30 of 35 points

Bell’s Hopslam, redux score of 87 points. Price: $19.99 US for a six pack.


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