Hophead: On Rotation At Trinity Hall
--Irish toast (one of many)
Trinity Hall is the official meeting spot for the Dallas chapter of the 1759 Society, a group dedicated to the world's finest stout. But as much as I love a pint of Irish crack, I decided to try other dark beers on this visit.
I asked to try Pipeline Porter, a curious Hawaiian cold weather brew and the current rotator tap selection. Unfortunately, they were piped out that evening--literally. Pipeline and another brand were unavailable because the lines had yet to be cleared, or something like that. Whatever the inconvenience, you have to appreciate the effort to serve clean beer.
In the meantime, Storm King, a Russian-style imperial stout brewed by Victory in Pennsylvania, caught my eye...although the menu description seems a little vague on this. Pitch black, creamy coffee-colored head, bitter finish and a whopping 9.1 percent ABV--but not really up to the $5.95 for a 12-oz. bottle standard.
A half order of fish and chips ($8.95) turned out to be a satisfying light meal while I waited for the keg problem to resolve. The cod was fresh and not fishy, and the crisp fries and little ramekin of coleslaw worked nicely.
After the food, I asked again about the Pipeline Porter. Still no go, so I opted to finish the night with something from the Large Format (16.9 oz to 25 oz bottles) menu. On a whim, I continued the Russian theme. That's not as out of place for an Irish pub as it may sound. After all, the Irish and Russkies have a lot in common: potatoes, booze, pale skin, morbid sentimentality.
The Baltika 6 (16.9 oz., $7.95) turned out to be an odd porter. It looked a deep reddish maroon when held to the light. It was also sweeter and thinner than I expect from a porter, which made it pleasantly easy to drink, although perhaps not as warming as aficionados would like.
As I finished it, a guy came over and photographed the Pipeline Porter keg handle.
"That good, huh?" I asked. All he managed in response was a wide-eyed, blissful nod. Next time, I promised myself, and paid the check. As I stood, the bartender stopped me.
"Hey, Pipeline's ready," he said, and poured a generous sample into a rocks glass.
At last! My patience would be rewarded after all. I could hardly contain my enthusiasm as I took a sip... and nearly spat it out. Following a thin Russian porter, it tasted like cold, carbonated coffee with a strange fudge aftertaste--two levels of bitterness. Perhaps I should have stuck with the Russian stuff.
Selection: More than 170 beers, according to the Web site, which offers menus. A bit pricey, but it boasted several I've never tried. I'll be making a return visit as soon as I can afford it.
Atmosphere: In the first Hophead, one commenter responded to another's Trinity recommendation, saying it "manages to feel uncomfortably sterile yet still smell like shepherds pie." All I smelled was my own food order and a strange clean underlying scent that I eventually identified as the absence of tobacco smoke. That lack of coffin-nail exhaust--along with bright lighting, polished wood bar and general cleanliness--probably contributes to the "sterile" perception. But a band kept it lively with Irish folk tunes on banjo, guitar, accordion and violin.
Service: The beertender was quick, friendly and helpful in spite of the keg delay. The beer was a bit cold for my taste at (according to the Web site) 35 degrees. Some styles prefer warmer climes, into the 50 degree range. But I suppose American bars will usually err on the frosty side.