Saturday, June 30, 2012

032. Saint Arnold Summer Pils

When it comes to summer (beer) lovin', I'm having a blast. I've been beating the heat with a variety of lighter-than-usual brews this season (and it's barely July!). This week's foray into lighter fare is from local brewery, Saint Arnold and their solstice offering is Saint Arnold's Summer Pils.

This is actually a two-part review -- not that it will take me two weeks to write it, but it took me two weeks to sample it. My wife and I took some friends to a local theater production of the play, Noises Off! about two weeks ago. It's one of our favorite plays and we had front-row seats for a fantastic performance (plus, I drank a Shiner Bock during the first intermission, which never hurts my mood). After the play, we went to dinner at Katz's Deli where I had their killer pastrami sandwich -- and my first taste of Saint Arnold's Summer Pils -- on tap -- to wash it down.

I had two glasses with a leisurely dinner (fret not, my wife is used to driving me home after I "conduct research" for my blog) and I so enjoyed the beer that I decided to pick up a six-pack the next time I was at the store.

My first glass at Katz's Deli.
Tap vs. Bottle
I don't think I've ever really had a beer on tap that was significantly worse than the bottle. The one exception is that Guinness from the bottom of the keg is remarkably darker and more bitter than the middle of the keg (the "sweet zone") and it's not quite as good from the top of the keg.

In fact, except for Guinness (which can be wonderful, but is unpredictable), tap is usually much better. I think this is not an exception -- perhaps it was the food, the mood or the company, but those two glasses of Summer Pils were exceptionally refreshing that afternoon. I really enjoyed them.

The bottles are not bad at all, but they seem to lack some of the freshness I got from it being on tap. Although fresher, by the time it got to my table there was no head to speak of. It wasn't flat, but the light carbonation had mostly cleared up and I was left with a stunningly clear beverage which kissed the lip of the glass with the seduction of a faint lace. I don't think they served me a chilled mug, but it's so darned humid here that the glass was covered with condensation by the time I got it.

Given the choice, though, I would choose tap over bottle.

My first six-pack
Having enjoyed my dinner, I promptly picked up a six-pack of the Summer Pils during my weekly grocery shopping trip. I think it was about $7 or $8 at my local Randall's. Now, I had seen this beer many times before, but had never picked it up. Perhaps, like Cartman, I don't like hippies, so its tie-dyed label was a bit of a turn off. Okay, if not a turn off, certainly not an enticement. I will say that seeing Saint Arnold bedecked in cheap sunglasses was a bit of retro fun.

From the label: "As Bishop of Metz, Saint Arnold spent his life warning of the dangers of drinking water and extolling the virtues of ale. During his funeral, his pallbearers stopped to slake their thirst, but regretfully, there was just one mug of ale to share among them. Then a miracle came to pass ... that one mug never ran dry and all of the thirsty mourners in the entire gathering were satisfied."

This is definitely the way I picture my own wake, some day. Of course, knowing my wife (who seldom reads my blog), she'll charge for the beer! :-)

The Pour
Popping the top did not reward me with a strong aroma. It was a bit meek, or considering that this is named after a Saint, perhaps we should say "humble," instead?  Nevertheless, this has a simple aroma of aromatics -- I sense distant fields and wildflowers with just the faintest tease of citrus. I definitely get an alpine "Sound of Music" opening scene in my head when I take a deep breath of this. As it warms, the hops come alive with the songs that they've sung for a thousand years.

The Saint Arnold website suggests drinking this at 36 degrees, and I don't agree. If you let it go above 42/45 degrees, the hops come alive in your mouth and add a needed-layer to it. But don't let it get much warmer than that. This beer has a relatively low ABV (Alcohol By Volume), so it's not surprising that it has a weak head and lace. I had to use a very aggressive pour to get a good head out of this. For me, an "aggressive pour" means that I just dumped it straight into the bottom of the glass. I let it smack the bottom to elicit the biggest head I could get.

I like this a lot, and it will definitely become a staple of my summer refrigerator. It doesn't have the full body I'd require for it to become one of my all-time favorites, but it's definitely a solid contender for the dog days of summer with its aromatics, light malt and faint hops.

From their site:A true bohemian-style pilsner. Crisp and refreshing, this beer is perfect for a hot summer day. Saint Arnold Summer Pils has a delicate, sweet malt taste complemented by an abundant hop aroma and flavor. This beer is brewed with fine German malt, and a copious quantity of "noble" hops imported from the Czech Republic. Saint Arnold Summer Pils is best consumed at 36° Fahrenheit

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Color: Crisp golden yellow
Aroma: Humble, with hints of aromatics and citrus
Hops: Faint, but they make an appearance
Head: Ethereal -- almost not there
Lace: Light, but okay when it did show up
Carbonation: Light
Temprature Sweet Spot: 36-45 degrees
ABV: 4.9%
My Summer Rating: 8 out of 10
My Normal Rating: 7 out of 10

Other Reviews Worth a Sip:
The guys over at Beer Advocate seem to like it as a summer brew:

The Rate Beer guys seem to care for it less:

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