The Psychology of Scarcity, or My Thoughts on the Hopslam Phenomenon

February 18, 2012

Hello there. I did not plan to write this post; it just came to me this bright early morning in my kitchen. I was tooling around & boiling wort to make a starter for an IPA I’m brewing tomorrow. I am making an IPA because I (somewhat arrogantly) want to make something that is better then Bell’s Hopslam. I realize I might have lost some readers right there with that statement.  I can just imagine people thinking  “Ratchet, you idiot, HopSlam is the bomb! Nothing you could possibly brew would be better then it!” and “Oh hell, there he goes again, what is wrong with this dude?” Well, here is what I am thinking. Yes I have tried Hopslam. I have read and heard about this “wonderful nectar of the gods” from websites, magazines and friends. Every time my favorite beer store, Bruisin’ Ales, gets some in stock it sells out almost immediately. The last time I was in Asheville they sold out of umpteen cases before I could get there. Luckily I have friends (well for now at least, let’s see what happens when they read this post) that share the spoils of their beer purchasing victories. My Knox Beer Crew buddy and manager dude of  Bearden Beer Market, Mr. Matty Mac was able to procure a case. He nicely and selfishlessly allowed members of the beer crew to purchase a bottle. Yes, we were all giddy with joy and anticipation. I saved mine until I had the right moment to savor it. The time came and I popped open the bottle and poured it into my favorite glass. I did all the beer geeks things. I held the glass up to the light and gazed at it’s amber color and creamy tan head. I took a big sniff to process it’s piney, resiny hop aroma. Then the moment of truth came, I took a generous sip.

You know when you were a kid and that one Christmas you really wanted that big G.I. Joe Aircraft carrier playset? You asked Santa for it (just to placate your parents, you knew it was just some fat guy in a suit playing the role). You made sure Mom and Dad knew it was on your list, and you told every Grandparent, Aunt and Uncle about it? Then the big day comes, you open your present and you get the Cobra Terror Dome instead?  It’s still something really cool that you like, that your going to get a lot of enjoyment out of, but it wasn’t exactly what you wanted and anticipated. You’re grateful to have it though. My Hopslam experience was like that. For me, it just did not live up to the hype. Don’t get me wrong, I like it a lot and if I ever have the opportunity I WILL buy it, but I’ve had other IPAs that I have enjoyed much more. Now, don’t crucify me for my opinion. I realize we all have different taste. It’s a subjective thing. I’ve met people who actually prefer Keystone Light to Hop Project. It’s not my thing and I try not to judge.

Which brings me to the hype aspect. I believe that for the most part, us humans are just instinct driven primates. Back in the day of hunting and gathering we survived by hoarding food for the winter. I think we are hard wired to respond to scarcity. Why do we go to Asheville and drop a small fortune on beer when there are perfectly good choices here in K-town? Because it’s all stuff we can’t get here! There are many studies showing that if you are lead to believe something is rare, hard to aquire or expensive, your enjoyment factor of that particular thing goes up. One study that has been making the rounds is the wine price one. In this study people were told that they were given different wines at different prices. They were told one wine cost more then another. They reported that they liked the higher price wine much more. The trick was that both wines were actually the same one.

All this got me thinking when I started planning my next beer. If I didn’t rate HopSlam a 5 cap on Untappd, could I do better? Could I brew something that I found more enjoyable? I started thinking about what I like in an IPA. I like hops (duh), but not necessarily bitterness, unless that bitterness is perfectly balanced by malt sweetness. I really prefer American Style IPA to English. I am a big fan of West coast style hop flavor and aroma. I also realize that Hopslam bills itself as “Ale brewed with Honey”. Ok, I can do that. I also know that with a name like “HopSlam” it had a big hop bill. Ok, no problem. So, when I sat down to formulate a recipe I knew I wanted something around 70 IBUs, made with honey, massively dry hopped with Simcoe & other West Coast hops and in the 7-9% ABV range. So I put together a recipe. I usually share my recipes, but not this one. I’m going to hold this one close to the chest to see how it turns out. Once it’s ready, I want to do my own taste test experiment with it. I want to have my own personal side by side comparison with HopSlam and a few other IPAs that I like. In the future I will post the recipe and results. Until then, I have this impossible to find, ultra-rare, incredibly hyped beer you just HAVE to try.