On Friday morning, Jan. 22, Bell's Hopslam was delivered to many retailers in Birmingham and Huntsville. Hopslam is an exceptional double IPA produced in limited quantities just once a year.
Due to the limited supply, stores were allotted just five cases each. The retail price varied between $15 and $17 a six-pack. By the end of the day on Jan. 22, several stores had sold out. Most that didn't sell out within 24 hours had none left after a few days. By the time this issue of Birmingham Weekly hits the racks, there may not be any left in Birmingham stores—perhaps a couple of bars and restaurants still have a few bottles on hand.
The frenzy over Hopslam is something that gives me a lot of hope for beer culture in Birmingham. What I witnessed was a mad rush to buy a beer exploding with hops, and a rumored ABV over 12 percent (the label says 10 percent, but the brewery told wholesalers that they overshot the gravity this year).
Hopslam is a not a beer for the faint of heart, or die-hard drinkers of light lagers, yet it was in very high demand upon its debut in Alabama. High demand for Hopslam means that there can be high demand for other exceptional beers around here, even extreme beers. If the demand is there, breweries will step in to fill it, which means good times ahead.
This beer has massive bitterness balanced by massive American hop aroma and flavor. The usual suspects are all here: grapefruit, pine, orange, heaps of citrus. I've heard more than one person comment that they could hardly detect the high alcohol content, which surprises me, as I thought the alcohol burn was pretty dominant in this. That will mellow with time, however, should you choose to cellar this guy.
I caught some flack from some of my beer-loving friends for suggesting that I intend to sock a few of these away for future enjoyment. Their consternation is due to the fact that the glory of the hops in a double IPA diminishes quickly. Nothing is as easily noticeable when aging craft beer as the fading of hop aroma and flavor.
But in my experience, the hops don't vanish but make beer into something different over time. There is less citrus intensity and more malt shining through, plus unique flavors starting to pop out that you can't encounter in anything except an aged hop bomb. What seals the deal for me on this is the honey.
Mead (sometimes called honey wine) is famous for aging magnificently for decades. And Hopslam has no small dose of honey thrown in, something that really sets it apart. I'm confident the honey plus the exceptionally high alcohol content will turn this beer into something otherworldly in a few years.
Drop me a line in five years and I'll let you know how it's coming along.
“Hopped Up” is a weekly brew review by Danner Kline, founder of Free the Hops and co-organizer of the annual Magic City Brewfest. Send your feedback to email@example.com