Friday, January 22, 2010

Beer of the Week (Vol. XXXIX)

Another glorious edition of Beer of the Week brought to you as always by the cheerful chaps at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help put the hop into your step.

The states of Minnesota and Michigan have developed a bit of a rivalry over the years. I suspect much of it is based on how much they actually have in common. They both share borders with Canada, Wisconsin, and a four letter state to the south that they never tire of mocking (Iowa and Ohio). They both are known for lakes, forests, hunting, fishing, and other outdoor pursuits. Along with Massachusetts, they produce the most hockey players in the United States.

When it comes to sports rivalries, both states have had their moments. Of late, the Twins have had an edge over the Tigers (game 163 anyone?). Even though they're having a down year, the Pistons have had far more success than the Wolves as have Michigan's two Big Ten basketball teams when compared to the Gophers. Football is a spilt. While the Vikings have dominated the Lions since...well, pretty much forever, Michigan's college teams have far outpaced Minnesota's (as have teams from just about every state in the union for that matter). Hockey's fairly even too. The Red Wings have an obvious advantage over the Wild, but the comparison between the two states' many college hockey teams is much closer.

But there's one area where I must say Michigan enjoys a clear edge. As much as it pains me to admit it, when it comes to craft brewing, Michigan bests Minnesota. Yes, we have Summit, Surly, Brau Brothers, Lift Bridge, Lake Superior, and Flat Earth (among others). And these brewers all make some damn fine beers. But objectively, they just don't stack up with the variety and quality that Michigan currently brews up.

Founder's, New Holland, Arcadia, Dark Horse, and Stoney Creek are among the top-notch Michigan brewers that come immediately to mind. And then there's Bell's. Bell's Pale Ale was one of the first craft beers that I really got into. It was hoppy, cloudy, and had chunks in it (unfiltered). And it was tasty. Since then, I've enjoyed many a variety of Bell's and have rarely failed to be impressed with their product.

So when Dan--owner/operator of Glen Lake Wine & Spirits--informed me that he had a shipment of Bell's Hopslam Ale coming in, my taste buds began tingling in anticipation. Hopslam Ale is not a beer for everyone. Firstly, it's expensive. Close to twice the price that you would pay for a normal craft six-pack. And it's in limited supply, only available in late-January and February. Stores only get so much and once it's gone, it's gone. Finally, as the name implies, it's hoppy. So if you're some sort of sicko who doesn't like hops this is not your beer.

Brown bottle. Off-green label with Bell's logo depicts a guy who literally has just been slammed by enormous hops. Not a bad way to go.

Beer Style: Double IPA

Alcohol by Volume: 10.0%

COLOR (0-2): Golden and cloudy. 2

AROMA (0-2): Strong, hoppy, tangy grapefruit. 2

HEAD (0-2): Full, white, and thick. Good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): An explosion of hops. Powerful flavors of bitter hops and citrus overwhelm the taste buds (in a good way). Medium body and mouth feel. 5

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Great finish. Taste follows through and lingers nicely in the mouth. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Wow. In all the years of beer rating, I've never had a perfect score. In the past, I've held off in the hope that there's always something better out there. But it's hard for me to imagine that a better beer exists. Considering its 10% ABV, Hopslam is remarkably smooth and doesn't have much of a burn at all. Drinkable might not be the exact word for it, but I definitely could see putting down more than a few of these in a sitting. That could certainly catch up to you in a hurry. Hopslam would go great with a well-dressed burger or anything spicy or just about anything for that matter. Heck of a beer. 6

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 19


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