| Beer |

Hophead: Yes, Southern Star Can

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Two weeks back in this column, Oskar Blue made a pretty convincing case that high-quality beer need not be kegged or bottled to taste great. In fact, as commenter Paul Hightower pointed out, you can find a Texas example of high-quality craft beer that comes in cans.

And no, that's not a reference to Pabst Lone Star.

Southern Star is a new brewery that began production just over a year ago in Conroe, some 45 minutes north of Houston. The company makes just a handful of beers, including a crisp lager, a rauchbier lager, a stout, a blonde ale and the signature Pine Belt Pale Ale.

Pine Belt is available on draft and in four-packs of 16-oz. cans, a beer delivery method that Hophead heartily endorses. Who doesn't love a tall boy can on a hot summer day?

This unfiltered pale ale is kind of an odd duck, perhaps even an ugly duckling--but it's no less lovable for its eccentricities. It pours a hazy, opaque, dirty-penny color under an off-white head of foam. It's not a pretty beer, but as the can says, "Clarity is overrated." The smell is much maltier than one usually expects from an American pale ale, with vague dark fruitiness, yeast and bread notes vying with the piney (duh) hops. The taste is a nice balance of yeast and pale malts with the hops, with a pleasant thick, grainy texture and a crisp, bitter finish.

It's a well thought-out beer, and yet somehow endearingly rough around the edges, funky and charming like a batch of really good homebrew. It's hard to put a finger on just what it is about it that gives that impression.

Maybe it's the can.

Where to score: Select stores and bars, including Whole Foods and The Libertine.

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