Every year towards the end of winter, with an American populous depressed and at wit's end from lack of serotonin and vitamin D, the benevolent lords of Bell's Brewery in Kalamazoo, MI, smile kindly on the piteous masses, and release one of the most delicious beers ever made: The Hopslam! Great reveling ensues, with many a sacrifice to Xenu, the God of Hops, and for a brief time, the people are happy.
I know I've never done a post on a single wine or beer before, but this one is truly special. The Hopslam is an Imperial IPA, or American Double. Taking off from the traditional recipe for Indian Pale Ale — those strong, hoppy ales that powered Britain's benevolent rule of the eponymous subcontinent — American brewers upped the ante, increasing the original's high alcohol content and throwing in a tongue-stripping amount of hops.
I am no "hop head," and have always preferred a light English Bitter or German Kolsch to nearly any Imperial IPA; most are gawky and monstrous, one dimensional and overwrought, and many taste like a bong hit of stale pot and pine needles (AKA the "Oberlin Special," which is NOT as tasty as it sounds). Likewise, sweeter beers also turn me off, as many come off cloying and chemically, and as my girlfriend puts it, they make my teeth "feel furry."
Though equally potent as its contemporaries, with plenty of hops and a brain-numbing 10.0% abv, the Hopslam has that most rare and important characteristic in particularly potent potables: Balance! Fermented with a healthy portion of both hops and honey, the Hopslam is both sweet and bitter, and manages to play these often ill-employed flavors off each other with incredible grace. The beer pours a hazy golden-orange, with a full, foamy, off white head. The nose is a heady melange of honey, hops, and spice, which taken together is reminiscent of sweet grapefruit. The beer is oily textured and full from the start, carrying with it rich flavors of hops, toasty malt, cooking oil, tropical fruits and pine, all leading up to a pleasingly bitter, long lived, honey laced finish.
As the craft beer revolution has swept the District and Bell's Brewery had garnered tons of well deserved esteem, the Hopslam has gone from being one of those beers that is abundant at a few stores to one in short supply at many. You should have little trouble finding it at your better beer stores for the next week, but the hype is high and the beer rocks, so you won't see much beyond that, and expect to pay upwards of $15 to $20 per six pack. I know it's not cheap, but trust me when I say it is worth it. If you know the beer and love it, get it quick before it is gone; if you are a beer lover who has never had it, go buy some now!