Hopslam Firkin Tapping @ Hackney’s

We’ve had this night marked on the calendar for a while. Hopslam is one of Bell’s most beloved ales and one of my personal favorites. Since Hackney’s had Chicago’s only Hopslam firkin and a killer tap list of other Bell’s beers, we made sure to be at this special event.

The Mallet


I seldom venture to Printer’s Row, so this was my first time at Hackney’s. We arrived a little after 6 pm to find a packed house. The cask of Hopslam had yet to be tapped, so we settled into a tiny corner of open bar and got a Black Note on tap to enjoy while waiting. Black Note is one of Bell’s special release beers. It’s a blend of Bell’s Expedition Stout and Double Cream Stout aged in bourbon barrels. The flavors of each component are reflected in the taste: it has chocolate notes from from the Expedition, creaminess from the Double Cream, and slight bourbon flavor from the barrel aging. This rare treat was a good way to start the night. It was also the first beer to run out that night.

The Lineup

As we worked through the Black Note, the firkin tappings began. Besides giving opportunities for countless puns, firkins allow you to try unfiltered/unpasteurised beer without added nitrogen or CO2. Tonight they were tapping the Hopslam firkin as well as a firkin of Two Hearted. The tapping felt very ceremonial as the Bell’s rep in a suit used a mallet to open the firkin, while everyone gathered around to watch and take photos. As for the beer itself, it was certainly different from Hopslam on draft. I got a snifter of this one and I really enjoyed it. Compared to draft, the firkin beer was noticeably warmer and had a smoother taste with less bite.

Tapping Two Hearted

Throughout the night we also enjoyed Two Hearted, Expedition Stout, and Hopslam on draft. After having Hopslam on the firkin, the colder draft version was still enjoyable but tasted much sharper. The Two Hearted from the firkin was a smoother version of this citrusy IPA. The Expedition Stout on tap was from 2009 and had aged very well. Expedition is quickly becoming one of my favorite Imperial Stouts.

Left to right: Hopslam (firkin), Black Note, Expedition, Two Hearted

In addition to enjoying the beers, we also met some nice regulars and savored some tasty bar food. Sadly, Chicago will have wait until next year for another firkin of Hopslam, but wherever it is, I’m sure we’ll be there.

(Photos courtesy of Caitlin Sullivan)

One Comment:

  1. Did you try the Harry Magill’s? They haven’t made that in years (as far as I know). Do you know if it was from a new run, or if it was cellared?

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