Tasting Notes: Bell’s Hopslam

Bell's Hopslam

Supposedly the “holy grail” for hop heads… Bell’s Brewery’s Hopslam is consistently rated as one of the top beers in the United States (and the world)… FINALLY got a chance to thump my palate and give it a go.

The beer poured a wonderful orangey-copper.  Hazy. What little head that developed in the glass dissipated very quickly… high ABV beer will do that. A thin white ring of bubbles lingered on the perimeter of the glass. I chose a red wine glass to mimic the “tulip” glass that this should be served in… but, alas, no tulip glasses in stock at this house.

Aroma is very fruity…tropical fruit… like mangoes and grapefruit. I picked up a little bit of earthy notes, too… like the rinds of fruit skins. A little resiny, too… maybe a touch of “feet”… like stinky cheese? But, not in a displeasing way. The fruit notes of the hops sure dominate.

Taste was unbelievable… like grapefruit juice. Very acidic up front, like orange juice. Not overwhelmingly bitter like I though it would be… I hate hop bitterness, so I was leery it would be too much for me. It wasn’t… the hops are all in the flavor and aroma, that’s for sure. The middle of the taste was sweet… there’s honey in the recipe and I think it cam through. As it warms up, a little more pine resin taste comes out. Very slight malt sweetness, too… like bread. The finish of the taste is resiny, and the 10%ABV cuts through at the end of the taste with a little “hot alcohol” bite. Lingering taste is fruity hop flavor, hop resin, and fruity sweetness.

Overall, I can see why this beer is one of the top beers in the U.S… very pleasing… very unique… huge “novelty factor” since it releases once a year. The hop isn’t overly bitter, like I though it might be. Very big punch of flavor… huge fruit aroma. My first reaction was “man, this tastes like pink grapefruit juice”… and it does.

Glad this only comes out once a year… at $17(ish) per six pack, I could see this blowing through my beer budget in a hurry. Definitely schwacked my taste buds… I’ll sit her in the hop coma and enjoy the feeling.

By the way, tasting beer isn’t that hard… you just describe the tastes in detail and compare it to what you know… bready malt tastes, like saltine crackers or whole wheat bread. Fruity aromas like grapefruit. Sweet… alcohol bite… carbonic bite like when your nose tingles after burping up soda… all descriptors of the experience of savoring and enjoying the flavors of the beer your tasting. Start with what the beer looks like when it’s poured… then, sniff it… bury your nose in the glass and take in a big whiff… what does it smell like? Then, take a sip. Let the beer sit in your mouth for a second, then swallow. Take another sip. Smell it again. More sips. You’ll get the hang of it… some people are so intense about their tadting notes, they take a little notebook with them to jot down their experience. You don’t have to be that intense… sure, you can geek out on it, but just describing the beer to others you’re sitting with can be enough to get the beer convo rolling… and that’s what beer is: it’s social. It’s an experience. It’s something more than swilling it down your gullet while you grind on hotties. It’s beer… sit down, talk to a friend. Talk about what your tasting. Catch up on life. That’s what it’s all about. You can watch two experienced home brewers taste some beers to get an idea (se below)… or go out and try a craft beer and actually take a second to let the flavors and experience process in your brain and some tastings for yourself…

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  1. #1 by Matt C on March 4, 2012 - 3:13 PM

    Sounds like a great brew. I think I may have had it in the past but I’m sure its a completely different beer a little fresher…aroma wise. If you want an everyday drinker that’s similar in terms of bitterness, try Sweetwater IPA out of Georgia. Its a local brew for me but then again I live in the Southeast. Its got a great “american hop” profile ( citrus,resin, grapefruit etc.) but I think they add all hops late in the boil. It has a great aroma and flavor with a hint of bitterness…the way I like it. I agree with you, I hate overly bitter beers ( New Belgium Ranger IPA comes to mind).

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