Several months ago I picked up a six-pack of Bell's HopSlam Ale over at Total Wine. I've been drinking craft beer for over 25 years now, and of course Bell's beers have always ranked amongst my very favorites. Larry Bell is one of the most eccentric brewers you'll ever meet, and he has an aptly named ale to prove that (Eccentric Ale, of course). So, when I saw the newly arrived six-packs gleaming on the shelf, I bit the bullet and picked one up despite the whopping $15 price tag.
Bell's description was certainly promising:
A biting, bitter, tongue bruiser of an ale. With a name like Hopslam, what did you expect?
Larry Bell, of course, has never been known as one to go lightly on the hops. Nor the alcohol: Hop Slam has 10% alcohol by volume, making it twice as strong as a standard lager. It's brewed with honey, too, for an extra kick.
The first thing I do with my bottle of Bell's Hopslam Ale is catch the wonderful whiff of piney hops that come out of the bottle when I pop the cap. I know, I probably look silly sticking a beer bottle in my nose, but it's become a ritual for me with hoppy beers and I just love that first dose of hop aroma you get. So, don't knock it until you try it.
Now for the pour. I slowly decant my bottle into my bulb-shaped beer glass and watch as a quarter-inch thick head of thick creamy foam forms atop the orange-amber colored liquid. A fine layer of Brussels Lace clings to the sides of my glass as the liquid descends. Time to sniff again, and I get more citrusy, resiny, even herbal hops attacking my nose. With a name like Hop Slam, I want a lot of hops in the nose, and I surely get them here.
Time for a sip. Malt, please? There's some here, adding a bit of caramel backbone to the brew. Mostly, though, it's overwhelmed by the hops, though some richness in body imparted by the honey (and the resulting alcohol) is apparent, too. After that, it's all about the hops baby, and this one certainly has them in abundance.
They're really there right away: herbal, grassy, citrusy, and very resiny. The aroma component is quite pervasive, but then the bitterness sets in and intensifies into an absolutely mouth-puckering crescendo. The alcohol is almost covered up by the hops, though there's a bit of warmth in the finish. I found this one very drinkable all the same.
Hop Slam? Yeah, I'd say that's an apt description. Now, the downside. That's because HopSlam not only slams your palate, it slams your wallet too. And in these times of economic uncertainty, who needs that? Consider: Yes, this is an amazingly hoppy beer, but so is Bridgeport Hop Czar (see review for details), and I can buy a 12-pack of that delightful brew for the same price I paid ($14.95) for a six-pack of HopSlam.
I don't mind paying extra for quality beer, but I do think Bell's tends to overprice their beers. In this case, as much as I love this one, I probably would not buy it again because of the price. Sure, it's a hophead's dream, but there are loads of those on the market these days, and for much less. A five star brew, but I'm taking it down a peg for the inflated price.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.