Hooray for road trips! Thanks to the cross-border travels of a few friends of mine, I was able to score some cool beers not available for purchase in Chicago. Beer seems to be one of the few items left in the world whose availability relies on your location, so any real commitment to discovering new brews requires at least a small amount of travel. Thankfully, many of my favorite Michigan breweries ship to Illinois, but these two don’t. So, in the spirit of the great beverage explorers before me, here are my impressions of two out-of-state beers.
Bell’s Hopslam Ale- Double IPA
What’s good is a trip to Michigan without a trunkfull of Bell’s Beer to show for it? I didn’t move to Chicago until after Bell’s had left the Illinois market, so while I’m not suffering from full-fledged Oberon withdrawal, I try to acquire some whenever possible. When my friend Corey from Ann Arbor came to stay with me a few weeks ago, he did just that, stuffing a full 36six-packs into the back of his Chevy. While most of the beers were old favorites (Best Brown Ale, Expedition Stout, etc.), the Hopslam was a first for me.
I’m generally tired of breweries coming up with clever ways to fit “hops” into the titles of their brews (Hop Diggity, Hop Trip, Hop 2 It), but there really is no other possible name for this beer than Hopslam. In so many words, this beer is a monster. Not a scary monster, but a friendly, high-personality monster that you would feel comfortable inviting over to dinner.
The Hopslam starts off big, pouring hazy gold and developing a rich, malty head. The citrus/floral hop flavors are nicely mixed with a generous dose of malts and honey. Like the Dogfish Head 90 Minute, the malts are the real story here, keeping this bruiser from being just another overly bitter meathead. A great beer, and one I’m hoping lives in my cellar for at least another year or two.
King Brewing Hard Tail Ale- American Pale Ale
Another gift from a road-tripping friend, this time I have Meg and her dad to thank for bringing me back something I’ve never had before. Meg’s dad is a big beer fan in Michigan (is there a better place to be a beer fan?), and he insisted I had to give King Brewing a try. They sent me a nice selection; the Hard Tail Ale is the first and only I’ve tried so far. As a person who depends on a bike for 99% of his transportation, I knew I was already predisposed to liking this beer, but I did my best to approach it as objectively as possible.
Upon pouring the beer into my extra-fancy, super-scientific tasting vessel, the first thing I thought was, “Whoa, that is a creamy beer.” Everything from the way the head poured to the first notes of aroma were all cream, vanilla and spice; not at all what I was expecting. Once I started to drink, the typical hop citrus and bite showed up, making it an almost entirely reverse drinking experience of the Hopslam. The strong cream-and-vanilla flavors really caught me off guard, but I have to say I really enjoyed it. While not a headline-grabber, this is definitely a solid beer that deserves a spot in your trunk the next time you visit the Pleasant Peninsula.
That’s it for now; next time I’ll make sure to write about something that’s available for purchase here in the Windy City!
Posted by Lance