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Belt's Beer Garden: double ABVision

The best beers are good and still get you buzzed. So here's a couple tasty brews with 10%+ ABV...

 “I feel sorry for those who don’t drink because when they get up in the morning that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.”  — Frank Sinatra
“I feel sorry for those who don’t drink because when they get up in the morning that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.” — Frank Sinatra

We love beer, if you couldn't tell, and the best feeling is finding a beer that's quite strong but also hides the alcohol well.

As Norm and I are "go big or go home" type people, we certainly didn't go home...well, except to drink the beers...we went home to drink them (so I guess we're both, go big AND go home people). Either way, here's a couple beers with an ABV higher than 10% from two of the nation's biggest craft breweries.

This week Norm tried the 2015 version of a limited release that has been sweeping the nation for years - Bell's Hopslam.

hopslam (2)

So much of any craft beer's success is through word of mouth, if you will. With seasonal brews limiting the supply and geographic boundaries restricting their availability, beers that have a great reputation become even more sought after when put under these constraints. Prices skyrocket, release parties appear, and trading on the internet occurs. Hype creates more hype. One beer that has been a hype machine for awhile is Bell's Hopslam. For years this beer has been one of the gold standards of IIPA's. Has it been living off of it's hype, or is it still a top dog in this category?

Bell's Hopslam is really the first IIPA that made me say WOW! I had not experienced a beer with the incredibly sweet, citrus nose while also having that much hoppiness. The hint of honey was a nice touch too. It was an eye opening experience. Like your first girl(friend), it holds a special place in your memory that is hard to diminish.

But time moves along and you meet other girls, as well as other IPA's. So when you do get the chance to go back to that first, you want to see if it really meets what your memory has been telling you.

The 2015 batch of Hopslam, which I obtained from the Bell's store in Kalamazoo, Michigan while on a family trip, was a pricey $14.99 a six pack. It was bottled on 1/10 so it's about 5 weeks old. Not ideal, but certainly not too old.

This beer pours a brilliant golden bronze with minimal carbonation and looks amazing.  Especially when poured into a Hopslam tulip glass.

Hopslam's aroma is also something quite special: very strong citrus notes right away, with peach being one of the most noticeable. Other citrus aromas like orange and pineapple are present, as well plenty of caramel and malt. It was very light on the pine notes, which surprised me a little. Minimal hops as well were hitting my nose.

With a beautiful appearance and very nice nose, you'd expect to have something special tasting coming your way. Is Hopslam really hypeslam? Or does it live up to it's billing? I'm going to say, for me, Hopslam has slowly given way to hypeslam.

Does this mean it's bad?  Far from it. This is still a really good IIPA. There's some very nice citrus flavors, hop bitterness, and a surprising amount of bready malt to be enjoyed here. Enough by all to help mask the 10% ABV this beer packs. My issue with this beer is the level of malt. I love a very hop forward beer. I expected a strong, crisp hop bitterness. This one reminds me more of a Belgian IPA. While it's very drinkable, it's just not exciting.

Now maybe Hopslam just had an off year. The quality certainly varies year to year, with some being notoriously good, while others reputed as bad. I've heard mostly good things about 2015, but I'm having a hard time agreeing. I like to think Hopslam hasn't gotten any worse but there are so many wonderful IPA beers these days that my definition of great has risen as well.

I'm giving the 2015 Bell's Hopslam a 7/10. A very good beer, but don't believe the hype.

7 beers 2

Dave: This week, I've decided to try something a little more interesting and unknown: a Green Tea IPA that is the product of a three brewery collaboration.

green tea ipa

This may be a collaboration, but I'm crediting Stone with this one. However, it'd be unfair if I didn't mention the other parties involved. Ishii Brewing is out of Tamuning, Guam and is the self-proclaimed smallest brewery in the world (according to its website). Baird Brewing started out of Numazu, Japan way back in 2000. Their motto is "celebrating beer" and they just recently opened a brewery in the city of Izu, Japan - some 78 miles south of Tokyo.

And as for Stone, they are one of America's top craft breweries, situated in Escondido, California, right outside San Diego. As I've mentioned before they are one of my favorites, so I try to drink as much Stone as possible.

This was Toshi Ishii's idea way back in 2011 and, today, it's just as good. Japanese Green Tea IPA pours a cloudy golden/amber color. It smells of tea, hops, and herbal flavors and is topped with just about a finger of foam. They used Helga hops (out of Australia) to make it, which have a tropical fruit taste to them.

At first sip, the floral and green tea flavors explode on the tongue followed by the hoppy goodness that Stone is renowned for. There is some caramel to the flavor but that is hidden well by the green tea and hops. The Helga hops show themselves at the end, as a peach tea taste is left lingering on your tongue. And, as all Stone beers have, there is a bitterness to it. This time, however, it is subdued nicely by the other flavors. The official IBU isn't listed. I'm guessing it's somewhere between 60-80 but, again, it's hidden well.

This beer is smooth and that's incredibly dangerous. It clocks in at an amazing 10.1% ABV, so don't plan on doing any driving after drinking this beer. Sure, you might feel fine after the first half of it, but you'll hit the wall sometime during that last 50%.

This is a collaboration that Stone doesn't do very often...the last time they brewed it was four years ago - so try and get your hands on it now. It might cost you more than you want to spend, at $8.99 for a 22 ounce bomber, but I assure you it is worth it...especially since it's brewed in such short intervals. I give it an 8.5.

8.5