Sometimes there's some kind of theme to this column, like last week's tie-in to Belgian Independence Day or previous weeks' explorations of beers tried on a trip to Alaska. Other times, new or newly available brews are fodder for a Hophead column.
Then there are times when I simply write about a few random beers I've tried recently -- like this week.
After the jump, three beers are subjected to the grueling Hophead Beer Ranking System. Plus, a bit of info on Christmas In July celebrations at the three local Ginger Man pubs.
Appearance: Clear golden with traces of a lacy white head. Looks perfect for a filtered wheat beer. 10/10
Nose: Zesty lemon and floral hops mixed with banana and clove notes. 10/10
Taste: A very well-balanced blend of grainy, earthy cereal wheat taste with refreshing crisp citrus and floral notes. It's subtle but not bland and an interesting twist on wheat beers. Great summer beer. 37/40
Body: Thin, as expected, and refreshing with lively carbonation. 9/10
Finish: Tart and dry, slightly bitter, slightly sweet and very drinkable. 10/10
Style/Originality: This is a memorably well-done example of a style that lends itself to some forgettable, bland beers. 10/10
Party Factor: Can't find the ABV, but I'd guess it was around 5 percent. Like all beers from this McKinney brewery, it's only available on draft, so price varies by bar. I got mine at the Double-Wide bar -- in fact, the bartender was so happy to have someone order it rather than the usual can of PBR that it was on the house. Calculate the usual ABV/price per 12 oz. with a free beer and the Party Factor is infinity. We'll tap the brakes and say 3.
Southern Star Buried Hatchet Stout
Appearance: Cola-brown with reddish-maroon highlights and a short-lived tan head. 9/10
Nose: Lovely hazelnut, vanilla, cocoa and coffee bean notes. 10/10
Taste: All the elements above with no alcohol taste at all despite its strength. Overall, an excellent stout that's easily as good as most breweries' imperial stouts. Slightly sweet with some milk-chocolate and toffee taste to it and a slight coffee-bean bitterness. A new favorite. 40/40
Body: Medium body, creamy, but feels a tad thin for such a robust-tasting stout. 7/10
Finish: Slight bitterness at the end, which combined with the relatively thin body to make it surprisingly drinkable for such a strong stout. 10/10
Style/Originality: Overall, a very fine stout that's just as good as Flying Dog Gonzo and just shy of the greatness of Brooklyn Black Chocolate. 9/10
Party Factor: With an ABV of 8.25 and a four-pack price of 9.99, it's got a factor of 3.3, rounding to 3.
Real Ale Devil's Backbone Tripel
Appearance: Clear, golden with a sticky, puffy white head. 10/10
Nose: Not too pronounced. Bready malts and candy sugar and alcohol sweetness. 8/10
Taste: Slightly sweet with some peppery spiciness along with a sort of tropical-fruit/floral sweetness and a bit of funkiness I usually associate with Czech pils-style beers. Overall, a very good well-rounded take on the style. 36/40
Body: Medium-bodied and slightly coats the mouth. 8/10
Finish: A soft hoppy finish. 9/10
Style/Originality: Very distinct take on the tripel style, and it's nice to see a Texas brewery try a Belgian-style beer. 10/10
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Party Factor: With an ABV of 8.1 and a six-pack price of 9.99, it's got a factor of 4.85, rounding to 5.
Need a break from summer ales? The Dallas, Plano and Fort Worth locations of The Ginger Man Pub are all celebrating Christmas in July in the next few days. Delirium Noel (a Hophead fave) is featured Tuesday at the Dallas location, while Plano's Ginger Man will tap a keg of Rahr's Winter Warmer. Meanwhile, Fort Worth's location tapped a keg of Rahr's Whiskey Winter Warmer this past Sunday and is making St. Bernardus Christmas, Breckenridge Christmas, Anchor Christmas '09, Avery Old Jubilation and Affligem Noel available throughout the month.