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Archive for February, 2008

Bell’s HopSlam

I’m a very lucky girl. After reading my last review, my friend was kind enough to purchase the beer on my must try list – Bell’s HopSlam Ale.

Bell’s HopSlam

This beer is no joke. And at $15 for a six pack, it better deliver.

“A biting, bitter, tongue bruiser of an ale. With a name like Hopslam, what did you expect?” – Bell’s website.

I have to be honest regarding the hype surrounding this ale. Although it did not disappoint me in the least, it did not meet my expectations. I really enjoyed the ale and would never turn it down if it was offered to me, but it is hard to justify purchasing it at such a high cost. If I ever found it on tap, however, I would definitely order it.

Now onto the beer review.

The Hopslam is considered a Double IPA (DIPA), also known as an Imperial IPA. DIPAs are IPA’s with higher levels of hops and malts, typically having an ABV of 7% or higher. The style of beer is very new, circa mi-90’s, mostly being associated with the West Coast. It is the most popular style with hopheads and my personal favorite.

Bell’s Hopslam Ale poured a beautiful golden copper. The ale was cloudy, having fairly low clarity. The head was thin, dissolving very quickly. The aroma was definitely dominated by the hops, which were complimented with hints of grapefruit. The bold flavor of the ale was impressive. The hops “slammed” my taste-buds with bitter goodness and the grapefruit added a nice crisp edge. There was a distinctive “tree” flavor, that I later identified as pine. The beer was not as bitter as I was expecting it to be, which is my only complaint. The substantially high level of alcohol, 10% ABV, took away a portion of the bitterness. The sweetness of the malt and honey also balanced out the bitterness.

All in all, it was a pretty damn tasty brew. Neither the alcohol, hops, nor malt out-dominated the others, allowing the ale to have a great balance. I’m a huge fan of Bell’s, and the Hopslam Ale definitely increased my confidence in the brewery. I’m planning on making a visit to Bell’s sometime this year.

I would almost go as far as saying I liked it more than the Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA. Although, would probably have to enjoy both side by side to verify this claim. Usually, I prefer the 60 minute IPA to the 90 minute IPA. I’d probably pick Bell’s Two-Hearted, one of my staples, over the Hopslam. Both the 60 minute IPA and Two-Hearted are lower in alcohol, which in my opinion allows the hops flavor to come through stronger. As far as Double IPAs go, Stone Ruination IPA is still my favorite tasted thus far.

Double IPAs on my must-have list:

and many many many many others …

Moral of the story? I love my hops and Double IPAs. Bell’s does a great job with Hopslam. If you are willing to shell out the dough, I definitely suggest trying it out.

About Bell’s Brewery

Bell’s Brewery, Inc. formerly Kalamazoo Brewing Company, founded by Larry Bell as a home-brewing supply shop in 1983, sold its first beer in 1985. Originally brewing in a 15-gallon soup kettle, the company has grown remarkably from its production of 135 barrels (1 bbl = 31 gal.) in 1986 to over 90,000 barrels in 2007. Bell’s Brewery has grown from a tiny operation renting part of a former plumbing supply warehouse to a bustling, regional craft brewery. Over twenty years of brewing, Bell’s Brewery has built a nationwide reputation as a creative and talented brewery, playing a significant role in changing the beerscape of the nation.

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Victory HopDevil Ale

In celebration of my inaugural blog, I decided to go out an try a new beer.

For those of you who are interested in sampling a different beer, but are hesitant to invest in a whole six pack, World Market has an excellent selection of “buy by the bottle” beers.

After scanning through the various rows, my eyes stopped on Victory’s “HopDevil Ale.”

The description on the bottle reads: “The mythical HopDevil resides in the lore of farmers. Our HopDevil is the real deal. Bold, spicy and menacingly delicious. He’s the product of distinctive American hops and meticulous craftsmanship. Arising from the heady wilds of our Hopback and gently tamed with time, this Devil makes a great companion.”

The six pack ran for $8.99 and the bottle by itself was just under two dollars.

I prefer to drink the more hop heavy beers and IPAs at just below room temperature. As with wine, coldness kills the flavor. Since I bought the beer off a shelf and not out of a cooler, it was ready to drink when I got home.

Everyone has their own preference on drinking styles. If I’m drinking beer from a bottle, I prefer to pour it into a glass. Since I do not have any specialty beer glasses, I tend to pour the more aromatic beers into my larger wine glasses. Don’t laugh. It really does make a difference.

Upon pouring the HopDevil Ale into my giant wine glass (and I do mean giant), a pleasantly familiar aroma of hops invaded my nose.

Victory HopDevil Ale

As you can see in the picture I’ve posted, the color is a beautifully rich amber with a nice soft caramel foam.

The flavor of the beer held up to its promise. The bitterness of the hops, although very present, was not too overwhelming, allowing the richness of the German malts to really come through. The beer was excellent to sip on, and made a great pairing with some roasted and lightly salted almonds. Really hit the spot after a long day at work.

Victory’s HopDevil COMPOSITION
Malts: Imported, German 2 row
Hops: American whole flowers
Alcohol by volume: 6.7%

After checking out Victory’s website, it is apparent that I must try their seasonal beer entitled “Hop Wallop”. The problem will be finding it. I will keep you posted on my search.

Victory’s Hop Wallop

ABOUT
We celebrate the pioneering spirit of old Horace ‘Hop’ Wallop and those who dare mighty adventurous things in this vivid, robust ale. As our annual homage to the hop harvest, expect loads of aromatic splendor and bitter beauty.

COMPOSITION
Malts: Imported German malts
Hops: American whole flowers
Alcohol by volume: 8.5%

AVAILABILITY
Limited bottles and draft -beginning November 1, for a limited time

About Victory Brewing Company

“Having trained in Germany, we appreciate the artistic freedom we have here in the US. Here creativity is embraced by a fervent core of consumers and we are happy to serve that audience with our experience in traditional methods, selection of choice, often imported ingredients, and the best processing that technology can offer us. We relish the opportunity to please both ourselves and our audience with our flavorful creations. We’ve invested more than our lives in this. Take a look.”

Bill Covaleski
Brewmaster & President

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Let’s Go To The Hop

The Humulus lupulus plant

So what exactly are these hops that I know and love so much?

Hops Biology 101

Basically, hops are the female flowers of the hop plant, also known as Humulus lupulus. Hops are dioecious, which means they have separate male and female plants. Only the female produces the flowers that are used for brewing. The hop plant is a perennial spiraling vine which will grow in almost any climate given enough water and sunlight. Hops are native to the temperate zones of the northern hemisphere. They are found wild in Western Europe, Asia and certain parts of North America.

Hops are typically green in color with yellow lupulin glands down between the petals. What exactly are lupulin glands? The fine yellow resinous powder found upon fruit of hops, responsible for the bitterness of hops. There are several varieties of hops, which are usually broken down into two categories: bitter hops and aroma hops.

Traditionally, the term “Noble hops” refers to four varieties of hops low in bitterness and high in aroma, which often are the distinguishing characteristics of European-style lager beer. They are grown in four areas within Bavaria or Bohemia and include Hallertau Mittelfrüh, Tettnanger, Spalter, and Saaz.

Hops and Beer

Why add hops to beer? The major contribution hops give to beer is a characteristic bitterness that provides a counterpoint to the rich sweetness provided by the malt.

Hops have to be dried before they can be used in the brewing process. Traditionally, the hops drying process takes place in an oast. The bitter flavor is extracted from the hops during the boil, through the release of hop resin, which is a plant secretion containing essential oils.

Hop resins are composed of two main acids: isomerized alpha acids and beta acids, both contributing to the bitterness of beer.

Bitterness is not the only gift hops brings to the beer making party. The volatile oils are also an important flavor component of many types of beer. The essential oils are what give hops their unique aroma, which each variety having its own distinct profile.

The amount of bitterness and oils in a beer differs based on the hops variety and concentration used as well as the time and frequency in which they are added. By adding different varieties of hops at different times during the boil, a more complex hop profile can be established, giving the beer a balance of hop bitterness, taste and aroma. The five main types of hop additions are: first wort hopping, bittering, flavoring, finishing, and dry hopping.

The International Bitterness Units scale, or simply IBU scale, is the most typical, and probably the most accurate, measure for the bitterness of beer. An IBU is defined as 1 mg/l of iso-alpha-acid in a solution.

One formula craft brewers use to calculate IBU is:

Wh × AA% × Uaa ⁄ ( Vw × 1.34 )

History

Hops were not originally use to add bitterness and aromas. Hops are a natural preservative and part of its early use of hops in beer for preservation. Hops were added directly to the cask after fermentation to keep it fresh while it was transported. This is how my particular favorite style of beer, India Pale Ale, was developed. At the turn of the 18th century, British brewers began shipping strong ale with lots of hops added to the barrels to preserve it over the several months voyage to India.

A great source of information on hops is Norm Pyle’s Hop FAQ.

My current favorite IPA’s include:

Dogfish Head 60 mintue & 90 minute IPA
Stone Ruination IPA
(which is on tap at Bodega in the Short North, and in a bottle at Brazenhead in Grandview)
Bells Two-Hearted Ale

The beer I’m dying to try is:

Bells Hopslam
(which I’ve seen at Wild Oats on Lane Ave, $15 for a six pack)

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Welcome to the Brauhaus

I have been talking a good game about writing a Columbus based beer blog for quite some time. Talk is cheap and I’m putting my money where my “beer” is – whatever that is supposed to mean.

Who am I and why do I think I can write a blog about beer?

First off, let’s get this over with: I’m a girl. I know there is a popular misconception that estrogen = hops intolerance. Well either I’m an anomaly or the cosmopolitan drinking chicks have given us brewsky loving girls a bad rep. Regardless, I’m a self-declared “hophead” with an unnatural love for the female parts of the humulus lupus plant.

I make absolutely no claims at being a beer expert but, in my defense, I am no beer novice either. Instead, I prefer to think of myself as a student of the art of crafting beers.

What are goals and focus of this blog?

My personal goal is to become more educated on the world of beer. The goal of the blog is to take my readers along on my adventure and train ride through beerland. I intend on learning through a plethora of experiences including beer tasting, home-brewing, traveling to breweries, taking courses, and so on and so forth.

My focus is mostly on Columbus. Who is doing what, hidden treasures, where to find great beer, interesting facts, local breweries, etc.

I’m really looking forward to the quest ahead. I’m completely open to suggestions and guest writers as well as any other forms of collaboration that people wish to contribute. This blog is not so much about me as it is about Columbus and beer. If you love both as much as me, well then this is the place for you!

Cheers!

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