Wednesday, February 4, 2009

OMG! HOPSLAM!!!!

So...I got an e-mail from a friend who will remain nameless, taunting me that Isaac Newton's was tapping a keg of Bell's HopSlam today at 11:30. He was taunting me because I'd mentioned how ridiculous the hype on this beer has become over on BeerAdvocate.

Okay, I think to myself, I'm going to go try some of this stuff. No way I was going to drive all the way to Media, or Norristown, or Limerick to try it, or drive up to Shangy's to buy a $60+ case of it, but Isaac's? A 10 minute jaunt? Sure.

I got my glass, and a cloudy thing it was. Big wafts of sweet hop, pine, citrus, the whole thing blowing up in my nose. Big sweet/bitter mouth, a massive mainline of malt electrified by hops. Yup. Double IPA.

Big deal. Look, guys, this is a good DIPA. No argument there: if you like that kind of thing, this is a good one. But it's just good. It's not awesome, it's not Pliny. Stop squealing and peeing yourself. It's hype, and you're propagating it.



I left Isaac's and bought a case of Nugget Nectar for Cathy, kind of a 'you're back at work, and you're pretty damned great' present for her new job. Besides, she'd finished off a case of SNCA and a case of Hop Wallop since December, I gotta keep her away from my work beer. I had a bit of the bottle she had with dinner. Damn good, real hoppy, great beer. But I'm not twitching about it.

It's funny. The same people who bitch about how much craft beer costs, and how outrageous the prices are, are the ones who will drive all over hell's half-acre to get one particular beer, scream about it on-line, and buy it up whenever they see it. Do you get it? You're the real reason the price is so high. Ironic, ain't it?

No knock on Bell's; love their beers, and this is a good one. But phenomenal, outstanding, extra-terrestrial? No.

45 comments:

Bryan Kolesar said...

I don't typically geek out to the point of researching recipes, but it seems to me that this year's isn't up to past year "standards." Nugget Nectar is superior this year, imo.

As is the Sierra Nevada Torpedo, which I just finished :)

sam k said...

At's got such a really cool name, too!!!!!

Stan Hieronymus said...

But Two Hearted, what about Two Hearted?

Lew Bryson said...

It's funny, Bryan...you look at the 'reviews' on BA, and the only really low ranked ones are from previous years.

Lew Bryson said...

Two Hearted is a beer that should make people wet themselves. Every now and then, when I'm listening to something like "Dazed and Confused," I wonder; if Led Zep had never formed, and music like that hadn't hit the scene...and then suddenly did, this year: would we go crazy for it, or would it be just another song? If Two Hearted came out for the first time tomorrow, how would it be received?

Phillyduke said...

THANK YOU LEW!!! As "Beer Advocates" we're trying to raise awareness about quality-made craft beer, hoping to raise its profile to that of wine and other spirits in our culture. This type of mass-hysteria behavior, however, leaves us looking like a bunch of Star Trek Conventioneers (no offense to any level-headed Trekkies that may be reading this). C'mon, people...scarcity and limited distribution don't always = greatness. I'd take a Two Hearted any day of the week over a HopSlam, and as much as I love Nugget Nectar (as evidenced by the stack of orange boxes in my cellar right now), if it became a major hassle to acquire, I'd simply move on.

Perhaps you could repost this article when Dark Lord and Kate the Great are released? The hype machine is in serious overdrive with those two.

The New Albanian said...

We've poured a keg a week of Two Hearted for some years now, and its loyalists are solidly dependable ... except that I can't talk them into trying other beers that are similar in character. When that happens, the contrarian in me tugs my ear lobe and says: What is it about comfort zones, anyway?

As for HopSlam, our newer generation of good beer bars in Louisville have gotten mental about their limited allotments of it. With the words "Dark Lord" lingering in my ears, I learn at least one good lesson for our own soon-to-expand brewery, in that giving people far less of what they want is a fine idea for marketing and margins, if what they want is defined orgasmically on a beer networking site.

Last year during Gravity Head, we had three kegs of HopSlam priced for half-pint pours, only. That works out to somewhere around 540 servings. The kegs were gone in eight business days.

Rich said...

Never had Hopslam, so I can't comment on that one. As for IPA's, I find most of them to be pretty indistinguishable since they are so over the top to begin with. The biggest thing with IPA's for me is hop/malt balance and freshness...those are the things that make good IPA's stand out. When I had Nugget Nectar this year I thought it was over the top bitter, but lacking good hop flavor...I need to re-evaluate that one since I was sick when I tasted it...it was only OK for me.

Now, your comment about trashing the beer geeks that drive up the price...I'm gonna step on that a bit. It's not the beer drinkers necessarily, its the simple supply/demand economics, and I'm sure you don't need a lesson in econ. There is now a nationwide demand for these beers, but they are brewed locally in small batches. The BREWERS can demand high prices for them because they are rare to begin with. I've already traded some NN on ratebeer and I've seen a few more requests for the beer. I think its great that these microbreweries are getting some recognition for their handy work. A little national attention is good for the local economy.

BTW...those trades scored me a Two Hearted and a Torpedo...so I have those waiting and by the sound of things I'm in for a treat.

Lew Bryson said...

Now, your comment about trashing the beer geeks that drive up the price...I'm gonna step on that a bit. It's not the beer drinkers necessarily, its the simple supply/demand economics, and I'm sure you don't need a lesson in econ. There is now a nationwide demand for these beers, but they are brewed locally in small batches. The BREWERS can demand high prices for them because they are rare to begin with. I've already traded some NN on ratebeer and I've seen a few more requests for the beer. I think its great that these microbreweries are getting some recognition for their handy work. A little national attention is good for the local economy.

Let me step back, Bill. First, it is the beer drinkers. No one else drinks beer, no? And when they create a demand for a beer that is clearly not as price-dependent as with other beers, well, that spike in demand sends the price up. Am I missing something?

Second, Bell's is not local, they're at least regional: they're in Michigan, people are wetting themselves in PA (and other places). That ain't local demand. Same thing with Nugget; Tröegs definitely gets out of the "local" area. And it's not just rarity: there are plenty of rare beers. It's rare beers that catch the fancy of the fans, for whatever reason.

I don't mind beers or brewers getting attention; that's great, it's what I do. But the people who go ga-ga over particular beers (Dark Lord, Kate the Great) or brewers (Russian River, Port) should be aware of what that's going to mean on the shelfprice. Not to mention that it means they're going to be missing other excellent beers that just don't get the hype.

Lew Bryson said...

Oh, and I forgot: I have NO problem with brewers taking advantage of this situation and charging big bucks for their beers -- or for the retailers or wholesalers doing it either, for that matter. They'd be fools not to.

Rich said...

Dark Lord and Kate the Great are two beers that seem totally unattainable to me. Look at the trading forum on ratebeer and its practically 50% of the requests on there and people are asking a premium for them.

I do think that a lot of these regional breweries brew in small batches not because they have to but because they can...to drive the price up. I really don't have a problem with that but it needs to be identified as part of the problem. I think its just not right to pin the issue on the beer drinkers/geeks...they are just trying to get a taste of that beer. The problem STARTS at the brewery and ENDS with the drinker...everyone is guilty.

Regardless...we can fault the internet for this beer hysteria, Al Gore invented the internet, therefore, Al Gore is responsible for our overpriced beer. :)

Bill said...

Huh. It's in Chicago, it's on tap at my local brew pub as a guest tap, no one's going crazy about it, and it's the best IPA I've had since Stone's 10th anniversary brew.

The only forum I haunt anymore is Beermapping, so folks talk events and get-togethers way more than individual beers, and I'm missing out on folks going OMG. But my memories of BA were that the folks who had to have the next big thing no matter the cost weren't the folks who were complaining about the prices being high. So, yes, Lew, they're all beer drinkers, but it's not most individuals being hypocritical there, it just seems that way by viewing the forest and losing sight of the different types of trees that make it up.

Anonymous said...

All the crazy hype for the beer aside, considering it's a once a year, limited release beer, the price isn't really all that different compared to other DIPAs such as DFH 90 min or Weyerbacher Double Simcoe.

Anonymous said...

60 Minute IPA as good or better as any beer discussed here, available all year long, bottled stamped with a born on date.
Thats why I walk of my local with it 95% of the time.
A beautiful beer.

larry said...

"I do think that a lot of these regional breweries brew in small batches not because they have to but because they can..."

put down the crack pipe my brother...we ain't plottin' to take your hard earned cash in some ponzi scheme. Also, I bet if you'd buy the guys at three floyds a few hundred thousand dollars worth of tank space they'd make more of everything...that is assuming they can get the hops.

I used to make beer in northern Indiana and these guys rock...but how about a little love for the beers right here? The Westy story tells it all: good doesn't matter as much as un-get-able. Hoppy beer is best super fresh...why buy it from some guy in CA who traded for it with some other guy in China who bought it last year?

open mind, open wallet, drink beer. Oh, and i'll bet local DIPA is cheaper. try $3 bottles of 113 from sly fox. world class.

Lew Bryson said...

As for HopSlam, our newer generation of good beer bars in Louisville have gotten mental about their limited allotments of it.

True, the fire's being stoked from several directions. So, are you planning a huge TIPA that there will only be 50 cases of, sold for $15 a 12 oz. bottle, determined by lottery?

Lew Bryson said...

You know, Rich makes a good point: the Internet makes this kind of frenzy possible.

The New Albanian said...

So, are you planning a huge TIPA that there will only be 50 cases of, sold for $15 a 12 oz. bottle, determined by lottery?

Only if we can package it in a big-ass can.

Steven said...

Well, it's plain obvious dude --you just don't understand the hops.

;-D

Lew Bryson said...

I beg your pardon: I speak fluent Chinook, and I took AP Hallertau in high school. Believe me, sir: I understand the hops.

Steven said...

Oh, I beg to differ -- that's all old-school hop knowledge, you can't really understand the hops unless you've only recently discovered the glory of highly hopped, overly attenuated, kick your a** beer -- it's epiphany-like, don't you know?

{tongue firmly planted in my 20+ year, good beer drinking cheek, of course}

Lew Bryson said...

Oh, kidding aside, I wish the Hopslam had been highly attenuated. It was almost syrupy, really non-Two Hearted-like.

Steven said...

"It was almost syrupy..."

Isn't it brewed with honey?

On the note of attenuation, and the 10% ABV HopSlam carries, I sort of wonder if all of these very high alcohol brews are just too difficult for brewers to keep under control.

I had a bottle of this year's Big Foot (what, 9.6%?) and after about half the beer I really couldn't drink anymore because of the heavy sweetness and harsh bitterness -- and yeah, I love the Celebration, as well as the 2 Hearted.

Loren said...

Syrupy?!?! Sounds like they 'effed up this year as last years was a juicy hop bomb. No stickiness.

Hype Propagator would be a great name for a DBock!

Glenn said...

Got to go with the folks who said try your locals! Had the "opportunity" to sample Hopslam along side of one of our NC brewers DIPA's (Foothills Seeing Double). Local beer won hands down because it was fresh (and considerably cheaper!). Don't get me wrong Hopslam is a fine beer, as is Dark Lord, as is....(fill in the blank with whatever) But if I'm not drinking my homebrew I'll always go with the close brewers because fresh beer is ALWAYS better, and most have something as good if not better then these rarities!

Jeff Alworth said...

Lew, I really appreciate the post. I know nothing about Hopslam, but this phenomenon is certainly not unique to it. There's a frenzy of excitement over big beers right now, and periodically buzz beers break out for no reason than they're buzz beers.

You and I share an affection for small beers; I don't know if you also share my suspicion of big beers. No more of them are exceptional than in any beer category, and yet nearly all get raves. Intensity of flavors shouldn't be the sole criteria. Your reference to Pliny is spot on: I think every DIPA that provokes this fenzy should have to be blind-tested against Pliny. Almost every one would come up wanting in a serious way.

Pliny's so good that when I bought a bottle recently and decanted for two friends, we all had the same reaction: our heads snapped back after we got a sniff and we were stricken in delight. (And I'm really familiar with this beer.) There's intense, and then there's intensely good. Not the same.

Steven said...

Buzz Beers -- nice new phrase to coin, I like it -- will use it at will, if I may.

Brad said...

I have some friends who took a road trip up for Dark Lord Day or whatever they call the official release party. Parking lot scene, people dressed up, long lines, mass hysteria. Beer release or Phish Halloween concert? Well it sounded like they had a good time, and they brought back some to share with everyone. The beer was good, certainly, but until I have more time, money and motivation I'll stay on the sidelines for future DLDs, sipping the cheaper and more available beers around me.

Bill said...

If Zymurgy's clone recipe is to be believed, one of the things that makes Two-Hearted different is a decent amount of Munich malt in the malt bill -- I don't associate that with IPAs.

Lew -- you say Hopslam is cloudy, syrupy, and is the photo an accurate color? That in no way resembles the Hopslam I've had on two separate occasions this year on tap, which was crystal clear, in no way heavy or syrupy (or overly sweet), and, um, not orange. Isaac N's might be to blame for your experience with it more than those who hyped it.

Suz said...

"I speak fluent Chinook, and I took AP Hallertau in high school. Believe me, sir: I understand the hops."

I'm glad I stayed in tonight to catch up on paperwork and be a compugeek. This quote made my night.

Lew Bryson said...

Bill,

The beer appears cloudier in the picture than it did in the bar, but it was not crystal clear. God...I can't think about trying to find some...but I oughta.

sam k said...

I'll take Otto's Appel Trippel over whatever this seems to be. Belgian trippel with fresh ground apples added in the fermenter, with the surface yeast allowed to do its thing. It's dry, crisp, and 10.5% without any cloying stickiness at all. Very champagne-like. Second batch is as good as the first, but slightly sweeter. No need to dress up in costume or stand in line, and I don't give a rat's ass what they say about it on someone's over-the-top beer site. They serve it ten minutes from my house.

I'm addicted. It's local, and it's creative, and it's really tasty. Good luck with that out-of-town stuff. We got a great local. C'mon up.

Anonymous said...

Lost Abbey. 'Nuff said.

Matthew D Dunn said...

I agree about the hype. It's just hype. There are a lot of good beers that don't get hyped and a lot of mediocre beers that do. But I have to wonder about the epistemic status of statements like "It's not awesome, it's not Pliny." Why isn't this just hype? I've never had Pliny, but I sure have heard a lot about it.

In the same week you and those guys who publish that now-less-impressive-lipstick-on-a-pig-not-glossy-anymore-just-another-brewspaper write about Pliny like it's the lord's own semen.

I guess there are authorities and then there are authorities. But why should I trust you and "The Bros" (TM) rather than 10,000 slack jawed screaming beer dorks? We really are just sheep, huh? It's a good thing you're such an understanding shepherd.

I'm not defending the BA/RB folk. And I'm also not saying that critics don't have better judgment than the average enthusiast. But I am honestly wondering whether or not top-down hype is any less pernicious than bottom-up hype?

Lew Bryson said...

In the same week you and those guys who publish that now-less-impressive-lipstick-on-a-pig-not-glossy-anymore-just-another-brewspaper write about Pliny like it's the lord's own semen.

Matthew: what I said was "it's just good. It's not awesome, it's not Pliny." I think you overstate your case: implication of 'awesome' is hardly hyperbole.

The hype I was talking about here was not really the words so much as the deeds: people driving miles and miles to taste the beer and buying up all they can find. I think that was fairly clear from what I wrote. I haven't traveled miles and miles to taste one beer in quite a while; I can't remember the last time I drove more than an hour to taste one particular beer. (I did drive to Pittsburgh in December for the St. Nik tapping at Penn, but that was more in way of a valedictory to the brewery. And an excuse to go to Pittsburgh.)

But I've never driven more than an hour just for Pliny, and I wouldn't. I like the stuff, I think it is awesome, but I don't think you can find me doing any more ballwashing than that on it. Looking back over my tasting notes here on the blog, I don't think I've gone over the top on anything; I realize that's my own judgment, but I'm trying to be honest.

As to top-down hype... a brewer told me about five years ago that I had to be more responsible and careful about what I said than one guy on a beer rating website, simply because I had built up a reputation and a readership. I try to take that just as seriously as it warrants, and no more. So I don't tell people to sell their children and buy every bottle they can find. I try to keep things in perspective.

Trust me more than someone else (or 10,000 someones)? I've never tried to be prescriptive, just descriptive. If people read my thoughts about a number of beers or whiskeys, and find that they agree more often than not, they'll probably lean on my opinion. That's how this works. I've never set myself up as an expert; I shun the word. I'm a guy who has opinions and writes them; some times I get paid for them. That's it.

Steven said...

"I had to be more responsible and careful about what I said than one guy on a beer rating website, simply because I had built up a reputation and a readership."

Wow. Beer writers and sports stars with the heavy weight of "responsibility" on their shoulders. Maybe you can get Charles Barkley to write a guest column on being a role model to the beer community.

Lew, just keep doin' what you do. There's no mystery behind it or reading between the lines, and I sure ain't gonna whine that I became opinionated about beer 'cause you did. (I know where my responsibilities lie)

Lew Bryson said...

Yeah, well, like I said in the next sentence: "I try to take that just as seriously as it warrants, and no more."

Now...about HopSlam. I had another glass -- because I happened to walk into a place, and saw it on the taplist -- and it did taste substantially different than the glass I had at Isaac's: more attenuated, brisker. Did I get served the wrong beer at Isaac's? I think I may have. That said...the rest of what I said still holds. Good beer.

Matthew D Dunn said...

Yeah, sorry about my rant. I guess I just like Hopslam more than you do.

In my extensive, wholesome, Midwestern experience with the beer I've found temperature is important. Too cold and its hazy and goopy. Too warm and it doesn't taste quite right.

Lew Bryson said...

Hey, no need to apologize! I like your comments, hell, I prize them, especially when they make me think, and this was a great one for that.

Steven said...

"...my extensive, wholesome, Midwestern experience with the beer..."

Hmm, I must have been standing in the wrong line here in the midwest...

;-)

Lew Bryson said...

Seriously, I don't know how he tastes anything with his tongue stuck in his cheek like that...

The New Albanian said...

Since last I wrote, our bounty has grown. Now, in addition to three kegs of HopSlam, my rep scored a firkin of it, too.

I plan to dollar thimbles, and retire to Bamberg.

Heath said...

Hopslam: Thought it was just me!

I don't even think it's a great beer by Double IPA standards. It's lopsided and thinnish in the mouth, at least for the strength that this beer clocks in at.

Now, to each their own but the widespread love for this beer...I don't get it.

All that said, love Two-Hearted and believe that Bell's is the greatest brewer of stout in America. They just missed the mark with this one for me...

christian feigenspan said...

Hey Heath, if you think Bell's is the greatest brewer of stout in american then you obviously haven't tried my feigenspan's brown stout from new jersey.

doug... said...

I had the Hopslam a few days ago at the Raleigh Flying Saucer. Out-freaking-standing!