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Hopslam Ale

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Bell’s Brewery, Inc.
Galesburg, MI

Style: Imperial/Double IPA
ABV: 10.0%

Eddie’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

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One night at the bar I was talking to the bartender about Bell’s Two Hearted IPA and he described it as “candy in a glass.” At the time I didn’t really understand what he meant, especially after he confessed he wasn’t much of a hop fan, let alone a hophead. Months passed, and I began to think I knew what he thought he meant, but didn’t really agree with him. I mean, candy is sweet and hops are not. It’s as simple as that. Now that I’ve tried Bell’s take on the imperial IPA, Hopslam, I am convinced I know what he thought he meant but know he’s three-day-old, dead-dog wrong.

What he meant to say is that it’s a flower in a glass, because that’s what Bell’s brewer Larry Bell has created with the Hopslam, the bigger (much bigger) cousin to the Two Hearted. It pours just like any old IPA—a cloudy orange and gold, with a thick-bubbled, off-white head. The nose is extremely floral—that means “smells like flowers”—and calling the aroma a “bouquet” is both a non-raunchy double entendre and a massive understatement. Most flowers don’t smell this floral. If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t call this an IPA. There’s hints—hell, these aren’t hints, but tons of bricks—of oranges, grapefruit, maybe even strawberry? There is some hoppiness in the nose, but not nearly the intensity you would expect from a double IPA.

The strong notes of grapefruit dominate in the taste, and the bitterness is playing a decidedly second fiddle—the only time it gets anything close to a solo is at the very end of the sip. The gargantuan 10 percent alcohol is completely hidden behind the other flavors, and the body is stunningly light for such a giant beer. And to really heap insult onto injury of hardcore hopheads, the beer gets sweeter as you drink. When you get done, you begin to wonder if that was really an IPA after all.

Maybe Larry Bell doesn’t like those harsh, Columbus-gashed, super hop monsters like the Alpha King. Or maybe he’s just showing off, which is probably far more likely, ‘cuz not just anyone could brew this beer. He’s basically using hops as his primary flavor, and it somehow doesn’t taste hoppy. I don’t know if I would be able to drink two in one sitting, but pretty goddamn impressive nonetheless. Because Larry Bell plays things close to the vest, we can’t say for sure what hops he’s using here, but I’m going to take a total pie-in-the-sky, semi-educated guess and say it’s either Cascade, Centennial or a blend of the two. The giveaway is the strong grapefruit-like flavor and relatively low bitterness. But like I said, it’s a total guess, so I could be completely wrong.

So, highly recommended. Be forewarned, though, a six pack can be pricey—I paid damn near fifteen bucks for mine. But a hop flower in a glass? Yeah. It’s worth it.

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on February 15, 2007.
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