My only complaint about the Idle Rich Pub and Monday night's Winter And Christmas Beer Tasting is something outside the control of the bar: Resident Parking Only areas are one of the most idiotic ideas shortsighted Dallasites have ever come up with, and they've spread like a cancer from a few less-than-hospitable Lower Greenville streets to nearly the entire Lower Greenville area and into Uptown. Lady Hophead and I probably wasted 10 minutes trying to find a spot, cruising up and down street after empty street, each sporting plenty of free parking reserved for people who weren't using it, people who had chosen to move into an area with an active nightlife but apparently didn't want anyone else to enjoy it.
But at least the half-mile hike back to the car would give us a chance to sober up a bit before driving home -- a good thing, since the tasting featured some strong beers.
The six-beer lineup had an emphasis on pricey, hard-to-find European brews and featured Samichlaus, St. Bernardus Christmas Ale, Scaldis Noel, N'Ice Chouffe and Delirium Noel; only closer Sierra Nevada Celebration is brewed in the U.S. They came with a cheese plate of Humboldt Fog, cave-aged gruyere, red leicester and St. Andre Triple Creme chosen for their smooth creaminess, GM David Allen explained, so as to not have sharp flavors contrasting the rich, malty beers.
It's that kind of thoughtfulness that makes for a good beer tasting experience. That, along with the excellent selection, very affordable price of $25 and the easygoing self-paced style made it the best beer tasting I have been to yet. Rather than have a speaker guide drinkers through the sampling, the pub handed out a packet with info about all of the beers. Each server was well-informed about the beers, and let guests enjoy them at their leisure.
So maybe I have a second complaint -- I don't want to wait a whole year for the Idle to have another Christmas beer tasting. Following are notes on each of the brews, as well as info about a few other upcoming beer tappings and events.
Samichlaus (Vorchdorf, Austria)
At 14 percent ABV, Samichlaus claims to be the world's strongest lager--not true if you count some of Schorschbrau's eisbocks, but as far as consistently produced beers available in the U.S. that cost, oh, less than $100 a bottle, it is certainly up there. But the amazing thing is how smooth it is, thanks to its nearly year-long secondary fermentation. You could have told me it had an ABV of 7 or 8 and I'd have believed you. It's very sweet and syrupy with very little carbonation or head and a raisiny port-like lingering taste with a velvety feel, and easily my favorite of the tasting.
St. Bernardus Christmas Ale (Watou, Belgium)
Comparably delicate after Samichlaus, this 10 percent ABV brew had a complex malty flavor with toffee and bready flavors and some subtle spice notes. Very dark brown and opaque with lots of lacing and a wonderfully creamy body. I've had this before and was more impressed -- I think it may have suffered from following the incredible Samichlaus. Still, a great Belgian beer.
Scaldis Noel (Leuze-Pipaix, Belgium)
This translucent copper-amber brew (which I also really enjoyed last year) with a tan head had a very intense dark fruit aroma with a lot more of a pronounced alcohol heat at 12 percent ABV than anything else on the tasting menu. It's super malty with a spicy yeasty finish and rowdy carbonation. Also from the same brewery, Dubuisson Scaldis Belgian Ale is one of the most impressive beers I've had this year.
N'Ice Chouffe (Achouffe, Belgium)
Again, intense, spicy, malty and fruity, with a lively carbonation and an opaque deep reddish brown color. It's lighter and even more yeasty, and with more of a spicy hop finish. Imagine a cross between a bright Belgian blond ale like Leffe and a rich, malty, sweet quad and you're on the right track. Excellent, and tied with Delirium Noel as my second favorite of the night.
Delirium Noel (Melle, Belgium)
Sweet malts, candi sugar and an effervescent, fresh yeasty carbonation with some earthy, peppery hops on the finish would make this a great toasting beer (way better than Samuel Adams Infinium, if you ask me).
Sierra Nevada Celebration (Chico, California)
I wrote about this great IPA last week. It was certainly the odd duck out in both nationality and style, but was a nice palate-cleansing end to the night.
Tonight, the Meddlesome Moth taps four seasonals: Ridgeway Lump of Coal, Breckenridge Christmas, New Belgium La Folie and Anchor Our Special Ale. That will be followed by next week's Real Ale Coffee Porter cask, a Christmas Eve cask tapping of (512) Double Pecan Porter aged in Jack Daniel's barrels and Sierra Nevada's 30th anniversary Black Barleywine (a hybrid imperial stout and American barleywine...hmmm...) and Christmas Day tapping of New Belgium Sahti and Jester King Commercial Suicide aged in George Dickel barrels.
The Common Table this week began a new "Date Night" deal offering a four-course meal for two for $39, plus discounts on select wine bottles as well as a few large-format beers.
And don't forget that the Old Monk is giving away Maredsous chalices tonight. For info on that and a few other noteworthy beer tastings and events coming up, consult this events post from last week. Did I leave anything out? Please share in the comments.