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Hophead: Ephemeral Stardom At The Social House

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There are few things Lady Hophead loves more than beer, but singing is one of them. So naturally, karaoke--which combines those two loves--is like heroin for her. If you were to offer her the choice of concert tickets for a double bill of Blondie and Madonna or the chance to sing '80s classics into a cheap mic to a few friends at some dingy bar, she would have to think before answering.

So when we heard the sound of amateur singing blasting up from The Social House's downstairs lounge, I knew there was no turning back.

The place is pretty if a bit sterile: very modern-contemporary with polished hardwood tables and booths made of black vinyl doing an excellent impression of leather. It feels like the place tries a bit too hard, which isn't surprising considering that the owners' other venture is an ultra lounge.

Our bartender-- this young lady--hadn't even finished pulling our pints of Maredsous 8 and Chimay White before my wife was at the DJ table asking about his playlist. I was more interested in the beer list--which came sandwiched between two stained hardwood slats. It was the first time I'd ever seen a drink menu presented in something I could use to refloor our den. Very fancy.

The actual beer selection, while more than adequate, wasn't quite as impressive.

The Social House offers 20 beers on draft and another 20 available in bottles, with no overlap, for a total of 40. You can read it for yourself on the restaurant web site, but highlights include Duvel (bottled), Chimay White (draft) and Red (bottled), Newcastle (draft), Youngs Double Chocolate Stout (bottled) and Saint Arnold Amber (bottled). But while the selection isn't as adventurous as that of the dear departed "gastropub" Zymology, there wasn't a stinker in the bunch on draft. Less than half of the bottled selection was dedicated to those requisite American lagers whose only redeeming quality is funny commercials.

Besides, any place that offers the magnificent Maredsous 8 for $7 is OK in my book...unless you're a stickler for proper glassware--it was served in a regular pint glass rather than the preferred flute. But I'm sure the malty, slightly sweet dubbel would taste delicious even if you drank it out of a shoe. The Chimay White is served in a Chimay glass, though, so if presentation is a deciding factor, don't rule out The Social House just yet.

If hearing 35-year-old Yuppies belt out "You Can Leave Your Hat On" like they think they're the second coming of Joe Cocker is a dealkiller, though, go ahead and scratch a Monday night Social House visit off your to-do list.

Next up, emboldened by her Chimay, Lady Hophead sang Amy Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good." The Maredsous disappeared quickly as she did her signature boozy cha-cha during the instrumental break. 

The only two beers I hadn't tried were Ephemere and Lindeman's Framboise Lambic. Having little interest in a raspberry flavored beer with a puny 4 percent ABV, I decided to try the Ephemere. Hey, I needed something stronger to tolerate the obnoxiously loud sound system. There was a speaker above every table--way more power than necessary for a basement with stone walls and concrete floor.

Ephemere is a Unibroue ale brewed with green apple, coriander and curacao. At 5.5 percent ABV, it's not quite the beastly ale I usually associate with the Canadian brewery and its apocalyptic label art. In fact, unlike the usual flaming scenes and winged horses, this one has a drawing of a beautiful fairy. Very crisp and refreshing, but without the sweetness of an apple cider. There is a very bracing Granny Smith and lemon aftertaste, sour but not sour enough to turn me into the bitter beer-face guy--a summer beer, admittedly more seasonally appropriate than the Maredsous.

But no matter the weather--and no matter the glassware--I'll stick with Maredsous next time I go to The Social House. And if it's karaoke night, I'm bringing earplugs.

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