Here is another edition of my blind tastings, this time with some award-winning beers. The Gold and Silver medal winners in the Imperial IPA category for the Great American Beer Festival 2013, recently hit Michiana shelves – Fat Heads Hop Juju, a gold medal winner from Ohio, and Three Floyds Permanent Funeral, an Indiana silver medalist. And since I had one bottle of Bell's Hopslam, always a winner in my mind, I decided to throw it into the tasting.
As previously done, I labeled the bottom of each identical glass. Then between two buddies and myself, we filled each glass with the same amount, then mixed up the glasses on the table. That way, we were truly blind tasting. It was a bit amazing to me that all of us clearly identified one beer as the best, and while the other two were very good, both just a very small notch below the first.
The other amazing thing to me was my preconceived ideas that I was trying to avoid by this whole process. All three bottles had bottle dates, Hop Juju and Permanent Funeral were both within 4 weeks old, and the Hopslam, being the oldest, was bottled in early January. In my mind, I thought for sure that I would be able to pick out the Hopslam with a very muted hop profile by this time. Also, after choosing my top choice, I was surprised to realize that I hadn't chosen the same top beer as the GABF judges.
All three of us at the tasting chose Three Floyds as the best beer in the tasting, with Hop Juju and Hopslam tied for second. I'm sure that there are those out there with better refined palates than mine, that probably would have picked up on things that I didn't. I also recognize, that given the same three beers on a different day, my palate might have picked up different nuances. On this given day, I preferred the citrusy, zesty, floral hoppiness of Permanent Funeral over the the slightly more bitter pineyness of the other two.
As far as I know, Hop Juju was a one time, very limited release, and it is very likely that we will not see this beer again anytime soon. Hopslam, of course, is an annual release from Bell's, so we will have to wait another full year for bottles. However, there are a number of kegs in the area, most recently at the Constant Spring, Goshen, and Chubby Trout, Elkhart. Permanent Funeral is a bit more regular, but being from Three Floyds, is less regular than most of us beer enthusiasts would like. I do believe that there are still a few bottles currently scattered at a few Chalet Party Shoppe locations.