A good bartender once told me, "Hopslam is not a beer. It's an event." Hopslam is, in my opinion, the one beer that belongs on the AHBA's top 10 and can not and should not be debated. It is simply that good.
For several years now I have been the guy waiting for the news that Hopslam was coming. I am like Charlie waiting for the golden ticket, but there is a difference. I know that the golden ticket comes every year and I can find it. Several bars I frequent buy a lot of Bell's beer throughout the year to be assured a keg or two of Hopslam. I honestly get a call every year when Hopslam is en-route to one of my local beer bars. I am not joking.
Hopslam is special for a lot of reasons. It is delicious. It has a deep, thick sweetness that holds the belly of the beer together. It has an extremely fresh citrus taste that braids itself into the deeply complex hop flavor. There is a honey thickness that hides along the sides of the glass giving the beer a glisten. Finally there is a punch of alcohol flavor that hits you through the gulp. The beer has a gorgeous golden color with a nice, thick, white head. The nose is a sweet grassy flavor that nestles some light caramel in some floral hops. This beer is engulfing. It is truly engaging.
It is easy to discuss what makes a beer bad. However, because there is so much great craft beer, it is hard to push a beer up above others and describe why it is great. Hopslam is delicious in a way that most beers are not. You have had a cup cake from the grocery store and when you bite it you tell yourself, "that is sweet and tastes good." Then you can eat a piece of German chocolate cake from the 100 year old bakery down the street or a home made cheese cake from a great restaurant and you tell yourself, "that is better than good." That is what Hopslam is. It is not a pretty good, tasty beer. It is the NY Cheesecake from a 5 star restaurant good. It is the beer you drink that makes most other beers taste average. Then you add a thick, rich mouth feel and you end up with a really great beer experience.
Over the last several years I have made an observation. If you drink a few Hopslams over an evening, you do not get tipsy or drunk or buzzed. You get "Hopslammed." I have joked that Hopslam's secret ingredient is NyQuil. It will put your butt to sleep. If you can have 4 session IPA's over an evening and feel great, you are best to cut that in half with Hopslam. I am not a doctor...don't know why...it is what it is. But...It is 10% ABV and tastes like candy so...you figure it out.
Hopslam opens sweet-ish with a heavy alcohol hint. It is thick in the mouth and thick in flavor...dense. You get a honey sweetness immediately that is ridden by a soft hop flavor that makes you ignore the sincere alcohol indications. You get an almost Cognac flavor with a definite honey and citrus sweetness. But the sweetness is like the peel of an orange soaking in honey. Nothing is dominant but everything is noticeable. The middle is smooth as butter with a honey sweetness that is somehow mixed with a very round hop punch hiding on the back of the tongue. The beer finishes fairly sweet with a little citra-hop punch. The thickness of the beer is so evident throughout the delivery that I think one of the reasons this beer makes me so happy is because your tongue is the willing victim of a long lasting onslaught. It is taken hostage from the outset and it continues being a captive throughout. As they mention on the bottle, the true hero of this beer is a super high quality honey. You get it from moment one and it lasts throughout.
Hopslam is one of the beers that made me want to learn about beer. It is a creative concoction of a mead-like recipe mixed with a lot of beer know how. The flavor is so appealing and so complex. You find yourself trying to figure out why you love this beer. But in the end, you just give up and say I don't care because it is really delicious. I wait for Hopslam season every year because it is a beer that throws a spike through the heart of all of the early year cliche crap pumped out by some other breweries. It is a thick, strong, mesmerizing breath of fresh air that you will drink, smell, and perhaps regret the next day.
Full Brewery Name: Bell's Brewery
Brewery Location: Galesburg, Michigan
Alcohol by Volume(ABV): 10
Drinkability: Moderate - Sessionable