The Insiders' Wine Line --- June/July 1996
Microwaves Column by Bill Norrington
Some spectacular results of bottle conditioning are now also being produced much closer to home. The Hair of the Dog Brewing Company, Inc. in Portland, Oregon was launched on a shoestring in November, 1993, and has already won several awards and major critical praise to date for its two (that's right, only two!) current offerings, both of which are high gravity, bottle conditioned, and extremely specialized. Owners Alan Sprints and Doug Henderson state : "We are dedicated to providing the beer lover with new and unusual beer styles. Since our products finish conditioning in the bottle, the beer has a built-in shelf life. It can be at room temperature (50-74 degrees F) and will continute to slowly age in the bottle, like a fine wine, for several years. We make only a small amount of beer, and each bottle has a unique bottling number. This number changes every 10,000 bottles, or roughly one month's production." It is interesting to note that Hair of the Dog used local tap water with no addition of extra ions or minerals. Their water is relatively soft, plentiful, and unpolluted-- in short, it is ideal for the style their beers (and explains why there are so many breweries in the Portland area).
And Hair of the Dog's beers certainly have style! Their first offering was Adam, a revival of an old German style (Dortmund Adambier), which is a hearty ale with an alcohol strength of 10% by volume and which takes two months to make. Referred to as "perhaps the best kept secret in the microbrewery business" by the Malt Advocate (Volume 5, Number 1, First quarter 1996 issue) which also rated it "Domestic Beer of the Year," Adam is top fermented and cold conditioned for smoothness, garnet in color (best appreciated in a brandy snifter at cellar temperature), and the intense flavor blends what has been described as 'molasses, chocolate, currants, licorice, roasted nuts, put fruits, and smoke' to varying degrees, depending slightly upon the batch and the age. Alan Sprints recommends sipping Adam as an after dinner drink--he particularly likes it with chocolate. We recommend it full stop!
Golden Rose is Hair of the Dog's second and final offering to date. Inspired by the Belgian Tripel style used by the Trappists, Golden Rose is a top fermented and bottle conditioned strong ale with a deep golden color and a light refreshing body. The hop profile is subtle, and the fruity character is achieved by the use of aramatic and honey malts along with Belgian candy sugar. The feel is rich and sweet with a slight tang, and, with it's big bouquet and 7.5% alcohol strength by volume, Golden Rose also deserves a brandy snifter and cellar temperature for sampling. We were not surprised to learn that Golden Rose recently took a gold medal in the World Beer Championships--one of only two American entries to do so.
Needless to say, Hair of the Dog's vintage brews are not cheap nor are they easy to find, due to their limited production (about 800 barrels per year). Sold only through distributors in seven (including Oregon, California, and Washington), prices currently run about $3.00 for a twelve ounce bottle of Adam and $2.50 for a twelve ounce bottle of Golden Rose. But they are well worth both the price and the search--contact beer stores which specialize in microbrews; for more information, contact Hair of the Dog Brewing Company, 4059 SE 23rd Avenue, Portland, OR 97202, tel. 503-232-6585 (or World Wide Web: http://www.teleport.com/~doug).
Our staff is extremely impressed by both the dedication and the professionalism of Hair of the Dog. Not only did they take a big gamble on the success of such a limited range, but they also did some serious historical homework when it came to producing their final products. Bottle conditioned strong ales which are meant to be aged and savored like fine wine are for connoisseurs, and, with an alcohol content about twice as high as "regular" beer, they are certainly not mere thirst quenchers. Drink filtered beer out of a can if you want something safer than water to quaff while you are working up a sweat on the beach, but lay down you vintage bottles of Adam and Golden Rose for special occasions--and go with the wave!