Not too long ago I turned on a dog show on Animal Planet to indulge my 3 year old daughter who is a huge dog lover. It was interesting listening to the judges rant and rave over these dogs. I mean, you’d think they thought this Cocker Spaniel’s slobbery mouth with it’s tongue hanging out rivaled the Mona Lisa’s smile by the way they talked. Don’t get me wrong. The dog was cute. Very cute. But it wasn’t the Mona Lisa.
Which brings me to beer ratings…
I’ve discussed in the past how at times, certain beers achieve cult status, simply because in a viral sort of way, the herd deems one beer “the best,” and the intrepid reviewer would hate to disseminate a contrary opinion. Now, some beers are the best, because they simply are, “the best.” I have had plenty of top rated beers achieved beer God status on their own merit. From time to time, however, I stumble across a beer that makes me wonder why it is so coveted by the craft community.
Yes I have a beer in mind. It is Hopslam.
Before I go further, let me silence the haters. I LOVE Hopslam. I think it is delicious. I buy a bottle or two every year at it’s release. I love Bell’s Brewery. They produce quality, delicious beers. Hopslam included.
Why the disclaimer? Not to long ago someone on Twitter asked, “What beers do you think are overrated?” I responded, “Hopslam;” to which the inquisitor replied, “even this year’s? i think it’s pretty tasty.“ Tasty, yes…overrated…yes.
I drank three Hopslams this season, one a week three weeks in a row, trying to see if I could taste the pixy dust in this brew that inspires someone to pack the trunk of their car (saw a picture of that scenario) with the stuff. Each sip was good…very good, but each sip wasn’t a euphoric experience as described by countless twitter updates the past month or so. The beer is very well balanced, has a nice sweet and fruity malt with a caramel aftertaste, and a tasty hop profile (I picked up on Centennial). It finishes smooth. No complaints. I’d rate it 4.25 out of 5 subjective but not arbitrary stars. That’s a great rating. But it’s not the 6 out of 5 (yes I saw that on twitter) that the community attributes it.
I’m not alone in this. Billy Broas quickly agreed and said that in his opinion, were Dogfish Head’s 90 minute a special seasonal release it would be considered as sacred as Hopslam. He’s on to something. The fact that 1) Hopslam is a limited seasonal release, 2) it comes in an expensive $17.99+ six pack (actually this is a great deal compared to other Double IPAs that are served up in bomber sizes) and 3) it’s called Hopslam, contributes to its respectable yet overinflated (in my opinion) eminence.
I know in your head you are asking me, “Nate, so what IS better than Hopslam?”
Plenty, I’m sure but here’s one: Southern Tier’s Oak Aged Unearthly
Imperial India Pale Ale. After reading about the non-oaked version over at Beer and Whiskey Bros, I had to try it, and boy an I glad I did. This beer is packed full of complexity, even moreso than Hopslam. The flavors are so familiar but so unique and avant garde at the same time. Hops and fruity malts give way to serious whiskey flavors and lush earthy oakiness, peppered with occasional sour bites. Like Pavlov’s dog, I’m drooling on my keyboard (Pavlov’s dog was a renowned blogger, you know).
Feel free to disagree with me. It’s beer after all, and beer is open to a wide (but not total) degree of subjectivity. Before you go and answer one or both of these questions:
1) What beers do YOU feel are overrated in the craft community?
2) What makes Hopslam so highly rated?
And remember, this post is not a diatribe against one of my favorite brewery’s beer. I love the Hopslam, I’m just not prepared to marry it.