Just as the hot summer months inevitably result in a spike in crime stats, something about the July heat must make people get the urge to collectively rise up against their oppressors. Not only is our own country's independence celebrated in July, but the French (and Oak Cliff bikos) celebrate the storming of the Bastille July 14, and Belgium celebrates its independence on July 21.
The upcoming Belgian holiday is cause for a special pint night at the Dallas Ginger Man, featuring Chimay beers and logo glass giveaways from 7:30 p.m. until supplies are exhausted. Other Belgian-themed events for the month at Ginger Man Dallas include a Belgian beer tasting at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Christmas In July featuring Delirium Tremens at 6 p.m. July 27. Fort Worth's Ginger Man will have a Belgian beer tasting Saturday at 3 p.m.
And in the spirit of cross-cultural pollination, the Belgian holiday also seemed like reason enough to compare a Belgian-inspired American beer to an American-inspired Belgian beer.
Urthel Hop-It (Belgian IPA)
Appearance: Golden with tons of yeast sediment suspended like tiny flies in amber, crowned with a bright white head. Very intriguing. 9/10
Nose: Definite alcohol presence, along with honey, citrusy hops, perhaps some cloves and other spices and yeast. 10/10
Taste: Much like a Belgian tripel or blonde ale, but with nice hop bitterness at finish. Sweet but not too sweet. It's got that yeasty Belgian character with great carbonation, and quite distinct from American or British IPAs. If hops define American beers and malts define British beers, yeast defines Belgians. And this is a fine example. The hoppier character is noticeable but not overpowering. I would have believed you had you told me it was a tripel. 39/40
Body: Rich and smooth, with very pronounced alcohol warmth and slight graininess. Refreshing despite the high ABV and sweetness. 10/10
Finish: Dry and slightly bitter, but not nearly as bitter as American IPAs. 10/10
Style/Originality: Belgian IPAs are an intriguing style, with various brewers taking wildly distinct approaches to a style that began in Britain but was taken to the next level by American craft brewers. This one, inspired by the brewmaster's 2005 trip to the Pacific Northwest yet making use of European hops and Pilsner malt, is a fine example. 10/10
Party Factor: A four-pack of 11.2 oz. bottles at Whole Foods cost $8.99. At 9.5 percent ABV, that comes to a factor of 3.9, rounding to 4.
North Coast Brewing Co. Le Merle Saison
Appearance: Bright orangey yellow, hazy with a thick white head. 9/10
Nose: Grassy, earthy, wildflowers and a faint vegetable aroma, plus some unpleasantly sour citrus quality. 8/10
Taste: Slightly sour, almost like a dry pear cider. Slightly spicy and wheaty, not as citrusy as expected. It gets funkier and nastier as it warms up. Not very good. 21/40
Body: Very rowdy carbonation, a medium body appropriate for the style. 8/10
Finish: Bitter, dry and funky. Unpleasant but somewhat refreshing. 5/10
Style/Originality: Saison is a very broad category, with many brewers taking all kinds of tangents with a style originally intended by Belgian brewers to be a thirst-quenching low-ABV drink for farm workers. I'm a fan of North Coast, so I'm surprised this one missed the mark so badly -- though I wonder if I picked up a bad bottle. 5/10
Party Factor: A 750-ml bottle at Whole Foods cost $7.99. At 7.9 percent ABV, that comes to a factor of 2.1, rounding to 2.