So, around this time of year the vaunted Hoplsam is released by Bell’s Brewing and we couldn’t be happier. So, once again we purchased a sixer of what I consider to be the best DIPA going, and we ambitiously compared it to three others.
We may have bitten of a bit more than we could chew in terms of alcohol content in this go around, but sometimes you gotta just play through the pain…or the awesome.
Here we’ve got a west coast DIPA that Bob brought back from San Francisco, an “Imperial” IPA I brought back from Buffalo, NY, a DIPA from Charleville Brewing (this one may have been a touch past its prime), and of course, Hopslam.
Saranac Imperial IPA (8.5% ABV)
Nik: This is one of the many Saranac beers I came back with and this was the last of this sixer. I was a bit sad to see it go, but I was happy to be able to share it with Bob. This one has a very deep and cloudy copper color and a very strong hop nose that has a heavy dose of citrus to it. Like my favorite DIPAs and regular IPAs, it has a very woody flavor to it, not so much as Devil Dancer, but nothing I can complain about. It’s very bitter with a smooth finish. This is just a great beer.
Bob: Exhibits a sweet, citrusy hop aroma. Great rich orange color, with a tan head that lasts a long time. Welcoming bitterness upon tasting, which holds up well in the aftertaste. Nice, syrupy mouthfeel. This is a very nice offering that I would pay for again.
Russian River’s Pliny The Elder (9% ABV)
Nik: I’ve heard a great deal about this one but I’ve never had the pleasure of giving it a try. I was not disappointed. It has a paler color that’s clear as a bell, wonderful clarity. It has a nice head of tight, little bubbles and a strong aroma. I could really smell the western American hops in this one and it’s very piney taste was just great. Hoppy, woody, piney. Great ber.
Bob: Personally imported from my recent trip to Northern California, and very fresh. Nose is extremely fragrant of citrusy hops. Color in the glass is a very rich deep gold. The taste is to die for, with an absolutely marvelous balancee of hops and malt. Truly an inspirational drinking experience! My only regret is that my companions were unwilling to go the extra few miles to Santa Rosa, the home of Russian River Brewing, so that I could also sample Pliny the Younger, which is never bottled and only available in February. Oh well, perhaps next year…
Charleville’s Mucho Hoppo (9% ABV)
Nik: Of the Charleville beers I’ve had, their ales have just been wonderful and I’d been wanting to try this one for some time. I was worried that it might be a bit out of date, but my fears were soon put to rest. Like the Saranac, it has a very cloudy, copper color and a long lasting head of big bubbles. When I smelled it, I could tell there was still a very strong hop aroma and a very bitter taste with a warm mouth feel. There was just nothing really to complain about and I eagerly await more beers from Charleville.
Bob: Poured cloudy and dark orange, with an excellent head and lacing on the glass. Aroma was OK, but not particularly memorable. Good bitterness, with a long-lasting pleasant aftertaste. Reminded me of New Belgium’s Ranger IPA. A most drinkable brew, but a little more bitter than Hopslam, our last tasting in this group.
Bell’s Hoplsam 2012 (10% ABV)
Nik: I know this isn’t like Goose Island Bourbon County Stout with a year on it, but the hell with it. I’m counting it as different from last year. This year’s offering had a very strong woody aroma and a small head. The color was cloudier than last year’s beaming yellow. The taste is still extremely bitter and on the finish as well. It is lacking the sweetness that calmed down a bit of the bitterness this year. This is still a great beer and it’s by far the benchmark of Double IPAs everywhere. I hope you got some.
Bob: This is in the top five beers we’ve tasted, and we keep returning to it in our comparison tests just to make sure our taste hasn’t migrated too broadly. Hopslam is only available in February and sells out quickly. The 2012 version is once again a winner, with a unique aroma that is clearly a blend of several varieties of hops, Pours to a clear, medium gold color with a small head, Taste is very smooth and tempered by a small amount of honey, which no doubt helps to mask any hotness that might otherwise show up due to the very high ABV. Still a great beer, although perhaps not as flowery in aroma and taste as the 2010 and 2011 offerings. Pretty much a toss-up between this and Pliny the Elder–both are world class!