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Summer Brew Smackdown II, Plus Open Tasting At Plano Ginger Man

Temps have been over 100 degrees for days, and there's no relief in sight. No relief, that is, unless you count a cold glass of beer.

As mentioned last time we looked at summer thirst-quenchers, crisp pilsners, IPAs and farmhouse ales are much more appealing during the dog days of summer than the heavy, dark beers that so warmly seduce us during cooler months.

After the jump, I'll apply the Hophead Beer Ranking System to Brooklyn's Sorachi Ace, Abita Jockamo IPA and Saint Arnold Summer Pils, three beers I've found particularly refreshing in the last couple weeks. Plus, information on the Texas On Tap open sampling at the Plano Ginger Man next week.

Brooklyn Sorachi Ace
Appearance: Golden and hazy, with a long-lasting white head that looks like cirrus clouds. 10/10
Nose: Subtle, but I pick up on citrusy, peppery notes. 9/10
Taste: Very hop-forward, with lemony hop notes as the most noticeable element. Rather than the smooth pale or pilsner malts I usually associate with saisons, the hops are dominant, to the point that it's almost like a cross between a pale ale and a saison. Very crisp, dry, and unique, with an interesting hop presence from a new strain of hops developed in Japan, the Sorachi Ace. Some fruity flavors are more noticeable as it warms. 36/40
Body: Light, dry and refreshing with a Champagne-like fizziness. 10/10
Finish: All hops. Slightly bitter and dry, very drinkable and refreshing. 10/10
Style/Originality: An excellent take on the saison style, and a great use of a newly available hop known for its lemony quality. This is the first beer I've tried that included it, and I'm intrigued to find out how it's used in other styles. Definitely a more interesting beer than Brooklyn's serviceable though not particularly intriguing Summer Ale. If only it weren't so expensive.10/10
Party Factor: At $13.99 for a 750-ml bottle of this 7.60 percent ABV beer, the party factor comes to a paltry 1.13, rounding to 1.
Total: 86

Abita Jockamo IPA
Appearance: Clear amber-copper hued with a lacy off-white head. 10/10
Nose: Dry and hoppy, with slightly sweet caramel pale malts making a strong showing. 9/10
Taste: There's nothing that really distinguishes this beer, and yet I really like it. The malts add a bit of toffee or caramel sweetness to the floral and earthy hop notes, which aren't nearly as overwhelming as the West Coast hop bombs that have come to typify American IPAs. It's more like an East Coast IPA, though not quite as subdued as an English IPA. I imagine it would go great with savory, salty and spicy Cajun food. 35/40
Body: Light to medium, with good carbonation. 9/10
Finish: Refreshing and bitter. 10/10
Style/Originality: Not breaking the mold, but a good quencher. 7/10
Party Factor: On sale last week at the Oak Lawn Goody Goody for 7.99 for a six-pack, this 6.5 percent ABV ale has a factor of 4.89, rounding to 5.
Total: 85

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Saint Arnold Summer Pils
Appearance: Very light yellow with a thin but persistant white head. Looks right for the style, and I like the tie-dye motif on the label, and the mascot wearing sunglasses. It's like Saint Arnold himself is saying, "Hey, bud, I know I'm the patron saint of brewers and all, but it is just beer. Let's not take it so seriously." 9/10
Nose: White bread, slightly grassy and funky with a slight sulfuric quality. Not picking up on much in the way of hops. 8/10
Taste: Very mild and drinkable, and it goes great with salty snacks. Counter to my usual preference, on a 100-degree day it tastes even better straight from the ice-cold bottle than poured into a glass. But it's a bit on the sweet side, with just a kiss of hops not quite balancing it. 34/40
Body: Light and soft with foamy, mouth-coating carbonation. 7/10
Finish: Slightly sweet with a bit of earthy hops. Would have preferred a stronger hop presence to make it more refreshing. 7/10
Style/Originality: It's been a while since I had Saint Arnold's Fancy Lawnmower, but I remember liking it considerably more than this one. This is not an especially exciting beer, but pilsner fans would probably like it. 7/10
Party Factor: At $7.99 for a sixer of 4.9 percent ABV beer, the factor is 3.68, rounding to 4.
Total: 76


Starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, August 11, Texas On Tap will be the host of an open tasting at the Plano Ginger Man, located in the Shops at Legacy. For $18 (with pre-purchase recommended here), drinkers get a punch card entitling them to six different samples from a selection of 18 beers. Dinner is not included.

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