Two months ago I moved here with my wife from upstate New York to be closer to family. Moving across the country tends to bring about a small amount of upheaval and the need to find new norms for comfort. I drink beer which means I have a need to slip into the local beer culture in order to get a sense of the community. My first effort was to track down a new watering hole. Luckily, I didn’t have to go far as Eddie’s Alehouse in Sun Prairie is stumbling distance from home.
Eddies isn’t a classy, deep mahogany kind of bar. It’s a wood paneling and grease stain kind of bar. On my first visit I am accompanied by my wife, Katie, and her mother, a pseudo-Wisconsinite by way of Illinois after spending a life time in the Northwoods. She brings with her the claimed knowledge of the video machines that actually pay out. I’m skeptical, but to her credit, she tends to win…
We walk into Eddie’s to find a packed house. The bar is at capacity. Two girls are nearest the door drinking some golden elixir from Chimay glasses. Proper glassware is always appreciated. More of the same all the way down to the opposite wall where the kitchen opens to the bar. Tables here range from small and round to comfortable for six. The beer menu can be found on the dry erase boards mounted to the wall behind the bar or in a handy printed format, but beware, the print might be outdated. Either way, there are no prices, only ABV content for each selection. There is no wait staff except to clear the piled up glasses. Drinks and food are ordered through the bar tender.
Eddies, interestingly reminds me of any towny bar except for the 140 beer selection and friendly service even to us new comers. The walls are lined with marketing pieces for the large breweries and a few locals. Nothing here is over stated. The tin ceiling may seems a bit out of place with the wood paneling, but I can only hope it is the original. This place could exist in any town, anywhere, and it could succeed on the stripped down, no frills ambiance combined with a robust and frequently changing beer menu.
We order a round and steal a vacated chair in the corner by the video gambling. From what I can tell of my mother-in-law’s excitement level, these machines aren’t going to pay out. Surprise.
For me, I cannot pass on my first chance to try Bell’s Hopslam. Weighing in at 10% ABV but smelling and appearing like a sweet mango fruit juice. It is a notable occasion when I find a “rare” beer to be worthy of the accolades but this is as good as beer gets. As the hops release their chorus of aromas, the mélange seems to hang just below the rim of the pint glass waiting to engulf your nose in a syrupy nectar of pine and pineapple and mango. Not a hint of the alcohol to provide fair warning of the danger that lies between you and the bottom of the glass.
While Hopslam is a double IPA, it is brewed with honey and uses its texture to provide richness and body. Honey in beer is a complicated ingredient. It is filled with fermentable sugars and can become a bittering agent if the yeast have their way with it. I’m not a brewer, so how Bells pulls this off so effectively is out of my expertise, however, I have had a few beers that use honey and only rarely does it work. This is brewed once a year and most of the sales are done at the brewery in Michigan, thus making Hopslam difficult find under normal circumstances.
As my pint glass finds its way to my lips at a far more rapid pace than I would normally allow the edges of the world began to soften. Soon I was staring at that last remnants of the laced foam on the glass.
This is actually an easy beer to ignore for the non-hop head. Many who stick to Belgians and wheats are unlikely to give this a shot once they hear there are six hop varietals. But IPAs in general have moved away from straight bittering hops to floral and citrus hops which make these massive beers far more approachable.
The drinking here is abnormally cheap for those coming from the east coast and the locals aren’t the “blogging while I’m drinking” crowd. Nevertheless, I stole a picture of the Hopslam on my iPhone ever mindful of the eye-rolls directed at my back. It was a first for me, and posterity beckoned.