I recently got to try a few pints of Bell's Brewery's Hopslam, the Kalamazoo, Michigan, area's double IPA. Their "standard" IPA, Two Hearted Ale, is worthy of a review, too, at some point. Chicago is close enough to Michigan and such a Bell's crazy city, that you can find the limited availability Hopslam at a few places around town. My most recent hop slam was at a local pub, The Village Tap.
The VT offered the beer in an 8 oz. pour, probably because of its limited availability and because, with its 10% average, enough is enough. That format is not uncommon for this beer, as other pubs similarly offer it. It starts with a dose of rich, but not overly bright hops, that smell more of wildflowers than citrus, like the west coast ones (not to definitively state that their hops are not Cascades). Then comes a bit of a twist. Sweet smells start to make it apparent that something different is going on and that you are not in for another bruiser of a double IPA. It pours a modest head. Initially, the taster is socked with a surprising amount of honey or apricots on the palate. This mouthfeel is more in line with a high alcohol lager or an Anchor Steam; it does not have the creaminess of some DIPA's, such as Michigan's Acadia Brewery's Hop Mouth or Russian River's Pliny the Elder.
Hopslam's finish can be alarming to non-IPA drinkers, as a copious hop blast arrives at the finish. For IPA vets, it's the moment they've been waiting for but does not arrive too late. The sweetness of this beer unites most beer drinkers on either side of the dividing line, but never predominates; this is never cloying.
Rating: **** stars. A unique and outstanding beer, grounded in enough hops to keep one entertained; but don't let the sweet flavors suck you in to a drunken stupor.