Beer Review: Bell’s Hopslam Vertical Tasting! 2007-2010-2011

by Nick Pederson on March 4, 2011

Okay, I know what you’all are thinking right away.   A Bell’s Hopslam vertical tasting?  Who is this idiot?  Who ages Bell’s Hopslam?  Well…it’s a bit of a long story.   It all started off when I bought three-6 packs of Hopslam last year.   My uncle had been raving about it as the best beer he’s ever had.   I thoroughly enjoyed my Hopslams but as a homebrewer I have a ton of beer around and at 10+% it took me a while to get through even two of the 6-ers, so after a month I had it sitting around my bar.   Then, my buddy came over to my house and saw the Hopslam sitting around and he says…

JJ- You like that stuff?

Nick – Yeah it’s fucking fantastic, why?

JJ- I got a six pack of that stuff at my house from a couple of years ago.

Nick- Oh reeeeeeeallyyyyyy?.. I say.

JJ- Yeah man….I’ll give em too you***

Nick-Okay?!?

***The reason my buddy had a 6-er of Hopslam lying around is because of his first experience with the stuff.   He bought it in 07, the second year it was released.   In Minnesota, DIPA’s were non-existent at that time and not knowing the strength of this high alcohol yet extremely drinkable beer,  he drank down an entire 6 pack of Hopslam in one sitting.  That’s like 15 regular beers!   Needless to say, he didn’t feel too good the next day, hell, the next couple days.  I’m pretty sure this is what went down….

He felt so crappy that he didn’t want to touch another Hopslam ever again.   Hench his 6-pack sitting at his house with his fine wines for 3 years!

That is how I came across vintage Hopslam and the reason why I hid some of the  2010 vintage from last year.  Long story right?

Here are the juicy details and results of this epic tasting of arguably one of the best beers in the world.

2011 ______2010 ______2007

Appearance –

2007 – Dark orange in color with a murky haze.  Darker then the rest.  Foams up initially and then head dissipates quickly.

2010 – Orange in color and a little cloudy but fairly clear.  Not as dark as the 07, but darker then the 11.  Once again, the head builds up and then dissipates quickly.

2011- Brilliant Mango color, Crystal clear, pours with a nice head, but once again dissipates quickly.

****As this beer ages, it definitely gets more haze, a shade darker, and looses head retention.

Aroma –

2007 – This smells a bit like a barley wine, malt, caramel, and honey is ever present.  Almost smells like a mead at this point.   Hops are not there at at.  Can detect a bit of oxidation in the smell.  A bit musty, but very complex.  Inviting!

2010 –  This smells basically like a barley wine.   Not much hops in the nose, but the malt comes through very well with caramel, bready, and honey.

2011 – Pinneapple, citrus, and slight bit of piney hops are ever present.  As you pop the top on the beer, a rush of hops essence is sent dancing around the room.

Taste -

2007 – The flavor of this one is all malt, caramel, and honey.  A slight bitterness on the end that doesn’t exactly taste like it’s from the hops.   The alcohol can’t hide behind anything as the malts have definitely mellowed leaving mostly the honey in the flavor.  Hops are non-existent.

2010 –  Tastes like a barely wine that’s been aged.  Malty, caramely, honey, and some breadyness.  The hops are still there a little bit on the end.  Definitely good but lacking the hop complexity.

2011 – Starts of with malt, and caramel, and through the middle you get the nice thick burst of tropical fruits, mango, pineapple, grapefruit, and then towards the end you get the rush of piney bitterness mixed with the slight alcohol.  The alcohol is mostly overshadowed by the bitterness when it’s this fresh.

Mouthfeel

2007 – thin

2010 – Medium-Full bodied mouthfeel, okay carbonation. Sweet and dry

2011 – Medium-Full bodied mouthfeel with good carbonation- not syrupy like most DIPA. It’s also sweet and dry on the end with a slight touch of bitterness

Overall

2007 – Very interesting to taste this beer aged for so long.  It’s almost like it’s a completely different beer. .  It’s an extremely unique aged beer that you couldn’t even come close to replicating in a fresh beer.   Since it’s brewed with a large portion of honey, the malt, and honey especially take the forfront of the flavor over time as the hops fade.  It’s thinner and mellow, and very drinkable.

2010 – This is a tasty beer still as the malt base is definitely really good.   It’s drinkable

2011 – This is absolutely amazing.  Fresh hops take the cake on this one.  The honey restrains the bitterness by giving a nice sweet punch at you.  The honey also dries the beer out a bit and leaves it tasting thinner in the mouthfeel and less syrupy.

Conclusion-

Although this was a fun experiment, and learning experience my only conclusion is that HOPSLAM IS BEST AS FRESH AS POSSIBLE!!! Yes, the aged versions were fantastic.  But fresh it is truly something special.  I will be drinking up all of the hopslams I have right away starting with the 2011 first.   If  you do accidentally have some hopslam in the cellar, my suggestion would to wait to drink it for 3 or more years.  By that time it’s a completely different beer!

[brewery id=100]

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