As the much-hyped Bell’s Hopslam double IPA was set to arrive in D.C. this week, any excitement I had for drinking it was tempered by the dread of staying up 24/7 to maintain the Beerspotter Twitter feed and let all you fiending drinkers know where and when to get this limited brew. Many breweries limit the production of their most vaunted beers, allowing them to inflate both their cult status and their price tags.
But of course, I was first in line to buy Hopslam. And revisiting it for the first time in 2010, I have to say it’s ambrosia. Almost literally — in Greek mythology, ambrosia was the drink of the gods, often referred to as bearing resemblance to nectar and honey, teeming with fruit and flora. Hopslam is indeed hoppy, but it’s a reminder that hops are more than bitterness; they’re actually flowers, and in this case they bring an armload of fresh-picked strawberry and grapefruit and apricot aroma to each bottle. This beer is made with honey. It is sweet and godly, a paean to the hop flower.
A few years ago, when Bell’s was just a good brewery and LeBron James was a prominent high school basketball player, you could get a six-pack of Hopslam for about $12. We called it “Four-Hearted,” because it really tasted like a double version of Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, with it’s overdrive hops mellowed by a honey sweetness. Today demand has driven the price up to about $25 for a six-pack, and while that does sound pretty outrageous, look at it this way: two of those bottles, or 24 oz., runs a little over $8. Meanwhile, very good breweries such as Stone and Southern Tier and Avery and countless Belgians charge $8, $10, even $14 for a single 24 oz. bottle without batting an eye. So while it’s frustrating that we can’t enjoy this beer year-round (and don’t try hording them — the hop flavors will fade), I can’t complain about the price. Just think about the wine $8 will buy you.