10 November 2006

KOTBR Review #6: Bell's Hopslam Ale

On Thursday, the Knights of the Beer Roundtable convened at what has become one of my very favorite new haunts - Deano's Vino Restaurant & Wine Bar, located by the fountain in Fountain Square. For you Naptown Old Skoolers, Deano's is located in the same building that once housed Theater on the Square, and later, Santorini's (before they moved into the larger building further down Prospect Street). The original Deano's Vino was located just the next block south on Virginia Avenue in the old Murphy's building, but now the wine shop is located on Mass Ave. The restaurant & wine bar is a collaboration between Deano (Dean Wilson) and his good friend Chef James Bryant (Jody). For those of you who may be leary about checking out a "wine bar", this place is far from pretentious & haughty. In fact, Deano supports Indiana wine & beer makers, recognizing that not all the good stuff has to come from California. While it is obviously known for it's wine selection, let me tell you, this place has a kick-ass beer selection. I find all of my very favorite beers on their menu, and that covers everything from micros to imports. I can go on about Deano's all night, so obviously, I highly recommend this spot, but I should save some of my raves for my part of the beer review. Let me focus on our choice of beer.

Fellow Knight of the Beer Roundtable, Jim, oberved that we overwhelmingly choose dark beers to rate here on HBG. So he suggested we try something a little different. Furthermore, said Jim, none of us are big fans of really "hoppy" beers, so we probably underrate them, and to compensate, we should choose a really "hoppy" beer and give it a fair rating. In fact, we decided to turn this into a very "hoppy" night, choosing hops for warm-ups and for our beer of rating. After asking for a suggestion, Nick, the Sam Malone of Deano's (pictured on left, with Laura and Deano), recommended we try Bell's newest single batch release that just hit stores last Friday, the Hopslam Ale (also known as the "Bitch Slap Ale", but that's a different story).

Bell's tagline for the Hopslam, an Imperial IPA, is "A biting, bitter, tongue bruiser of an ale. With a name like Hopslam, what did you expect?". With an ABV of 9.3%, you damn well better believe it's a "bruiser", and not just of the tongue! Needless to say, all of us were slammed by the hops.

JASON: (special note* Jason mentions to us the other night that he thinks we should do our reviews in haikus. He's the only one to produce. I hereby challenge him to do ever review for the rest of the year in a haiku!)

So four days later,
my head finally clears up.
Time for beer review.

Beer was named Hopslam.
Should be called Kick in the Nuts
Due to intense brew.

Color was copper.
Head started thick, then thinned out.
Lace was slight but there.

Fruitty scents up front.
Pepper and alcohol next.
Complex but pleasing.

Taste was well balanced.
Hoppy but smooth with slight burn;
Made tongue jump with joy.

Has creamy body.
It is not a chewy beer
Nor is it too thin.

Surprised by this beer.
Double IPA is not
Usual first choice.

But Hopslam is cool,
Made hop fan of this malt guy
With one side effect.

High alcohol with
High drinkability means
Slight brain damage here.

Too much Hopslam means
Four days (and counting) of me
Speaking in Haiku.

Despite annoyance,
I give Hopslam five mugs and
Half of my brain cells.

JIM: The beer menu at Deano’s contains Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote about fine malt beverages: “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” This may be true about all other beers. But when it comes to Bell’s Hopslam Ale, God didn’t just want us to be happy; the Almighty wanted us to be wildly jubilant.

Hopslam is an IPA. For the uninitiated, hops are a type of flower that is added to beer during the brewing process. The hops give beer the floral, citrusy aroma and the sort of bitter “bite” that hits your tongue when you drink it. They’re also used as a preservative to keep beer from getting sour or “skunked.” “IPA” stands for a variety of beer known as India pale ale. India pale ale is a heavily hopped style of beer that British brewers developed in the 1700’s to thwart the spoilage of the beer on long ocean voyages to places such as—you guessed it—India. IPA’s tend to be high in alcohol content and very bitter in taste.

In the past, I wouldn’t have gone for a heavily hopped beer like Hopslam. The bitterness used to get to me, so I would gravitate toward dark, malty beers, which tend to have little bitterness. But lately, I’ve been trying to diversify my beer sampling and have put a hold on malty beers in favor of hoppy beers. In that process, I’ve managed to become attached to Three Floyds’ Pride and Joy, which is a nice, dry ale with a citrusy nose and finish.

So when I arrived at Deano’s, what did I warm up with? A Pride and Joy, which turned out to be the perfect prelude to the Hopslam because the two beers are made from roughly the same mold. However, the Hopslam is much more complex and, at 9.3% alcohol by volume, much more powerful than Pride and Joy.

Nick brought out snifters for the Hopslam, which was appropriate for a beer of this potency because it’s meant to be sipped, not chugged. The nose on the Hopslam was a hybrid of citrus and peaches. In fact, the peach aroma was prevalent. Imagine the richest peach cobbler that you’ve ever had and you get the idea of the aroma. Upon my first sip, I was very surprised to find that, while hoppy, Hopslam was not overwhelming. The heavy hops were nicely balanced with a pleasant sweetness, which seemed to take the edge off of the bitterness that most hoppy beers provide. As might be expected, the flavor was rich in peach and citrus notes. After my second sip, I knew I was in love with this beer. I proclaimed to Chris that this was the best beer we had reviewed—even better than my previous favorite, Brugge Brasserie’s The Black.

A word about the buzz (I can’t go without discussing the buzz)—this is a take-it-slow beer. If you go too quickly with the Hopslam, you could find yourself to be “one hurtin’ tater” as my kinfolk like to say. But if you take your time, Hopslam will put a wide grin on your face and a cheerful mood in your heart. Whether it was the people that we met at Deano’s, the fine hospitality shown by the restaurant’s staff, or the beer itself, I can easily say that this was the best time that we’ve had reviewing a beer so far.

My rating: Five mugs. Yes, I said it – five mugs. This is only the second perfect beer that I’ve ever had (the first being North Coast’s Old Rasputin Imperial Stout). I’m happy that I can now consider two beers to be perfect instead of just one.

CHRIS: The label of Bell's new beer Hopslam shows three giant hops crushing a dude like the house falling on the Wicked Witch. Ladies and gentlemen, this label is a forshadowing of things to come for you if you drink this beer. In perfect French, it will tap a keg of whupass on you! And it did it to me. And I'm a big boy. Hopslam has an ABV of 9.3%, and I think Larry Bell may be fibbing about that just a little bit - I think it's a little higher.

Now, let it be said that I'm not a true fan of very hopped up beers. Not that I think they're bad, but I'm just the kind of guy that likes my beers tall, dark, and malty. So I was very leary to try a beer proclaimed as "Hopslam". But Jim is talking us into being diverse in our reviews, so I played along. And I'm glad I did. This is really a good beer.

It has a very rusted look to it - what I jokingly call "lite" beers. But that's where its "lite" ended. As for the nose, I may as well have stuck my sniffer straight up the ass of a Georgia Peach. I think the nose is extremely peachy, almost to a fault - again, not something I'm fond of. But when I took my first sip (because you only sip beers that are 9.3%), my fears and insecurities melted away because the flavors are so well-balanced. The aroma of the peach blends together with the strong hoppiness in a way that takes the punch in the nose away. However, it does still leave a prevalent peach after-taste.

Obviously, with a beer so rich in hops, the beer is a little bitter, and it definitely has a bite. But it's not overwhelming. It's well-carbonated, but not overly done. It's smooth, yet very distinct. And it has a nice moist, medium-bodied taste.

I give this beer 4 Mugs. While I'm working on it, I still can't get over my bias for the dark & malty. But really the only detractor for me with this beer was so many peaches. I think it's definitely a 5 Mugger for any hopheads out there. But 4 Mugs may just be the highest I can ever give really hoppy beers.

As for a word on Deano's, I can't say enough. As someone who spent some time growing up in Fountain Square back in the early 90s, I'm so pleased an establishment like this is located in the heart of Fountain Square, and leading the efforts in its renaissance. The atmosphere is fantastic, the staff are super-friendly and very knowledgeable, the beer list is out of this world, and the food is pretty damn good, too. If you haven't been there yet, I say this is THE essential new restaurant/bar in the 317 to check out. I can promise that many more reviews from the KOTBR will come to you from Deano's.


  1. Jim,

    Though you are correct about the hops being used origianlly to help preserve the beer. Hops are the product that will make a beer "skunk" if exposed to sunlight or florescent light. Just a minor correction.

  2. Wow, a blast from the past with a comment on this vintage post.

    Thanks, anonymous. You indeed are correct. You'll have to forgive my ignorance, as I was still somewhat of a craft beer newbie back then.

  3. Hopslam is a bomb ass beer!