Hophead: Saison d'être At Zymology

For every wound, a balm. For every sorrow, a cheer. For every storm, a calm. For every thirst, a beer.

Summer is nearly here, which explains the sudden cloudiness. I'm not talking about the weather; I mean the cloudy pints of seasonal unfiltered wheat beer offered at your favorite beer pub. And, while the place puts just as much thought into its wine selection as its beers, and while it isn't big enough to boast the overwhelming selection of an Old Monk or Flying Saucer, Zymology is on my short list of favorite beer pubs.

What the selection lacks in sheer size it more than makes up for in the thought that owners Sam Dickey and Ben Verdooren put into the 20 drafts and 25 or so bottled beers they offer. In fact, I'd just as soon have a shorter list to choose from if the selections are almost all top-notch beers. Plus, as Dish has already explained, the food ain't half bad.

Lady Hophead and I stopped by for a late dinner at about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, only to learn that a slow start to the evening had prompted Verdooren to take the rest of the night off. He didn't make it very far from the kitchen, as he was seated at the bar enjoying a glass of Arrogant Bastard when we arrived. (Where else in Dallas could he go to get a Bastard on draft? Nowhere, if Dickey is to be believed.) Fortunately, the wood-burning oven was still plenty hot, so Dickey offered to make us a platter of poblano-artichoke dip and a pizza.

While we waited for the grub, I asked if the place offered any seasonal beers or a limited-time featured brew. As it turns out, they don't have a regularly scheduled rotation or seasonals per se. They just replace kegs as they run out, changing up the selection whenever the fancy strikes. Not a bad method--keep the beer-loving regulars coming back just out of curiosity.

But they had a few seasonally appropriate beers on hand, including Hennepin, a Belgian-style saison from Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY. Saisons are an old French style of "farmhouse beer," which were traditionally brewed during the winter to be a refreshing, low-alcohol summer beer. Owned by Duvel and clocking in at 7.7 percent ABV, Hennepin breaks from the low-alcohol part of the tradition--a decision I heartily approve. But the bottle-fermented brew is still incredibly refreshing: highly effervescent, pouring a thick, creamy head of nearly microscopic bubbles. Immediately noticeable is a citrusy aroma, and it proves to be dry, peppery, yeasty and noticeably hoppier--and more bitter--than most wheat beers.

In short, it is impressive--and it paired wonderfully with the slightly spicy artichoke dip and chicken-and-goat-cheese pizza.

Next, we tried the Piraat Amber Triple IPA. "It's not really an IPA, since it's not nearly as hoppy as a typical IPA," Verdooren said. "It's more like the Belgian idea of an IPA." That assessment was about right: it definitely has the yeasty sweetness I associate with my favorite Belgian ales. What he forgot to mention was the high ABV. The 10.5 percent was a pleasant surprise. We felt almost obliged to cap the night with an Arrogant Bastard--you wouldn't go to Six Flags and not ride the Texas Giant, would you?

Stone makes some damn fine beers--their IPA is one of my favorites--and Arrogant Bastard is no exception. Seeing it poured from a tap was a memorable moment indeed. Almost as memorable as that first sip of Hennepin.

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