Malt Advocate magazine, Volume 5, Number 4, Fourth quarter 1996 issue
In the beginning... Adambier. The first ten batches.
by John Hansell
It was the beer equivalent of a Planet Hollywood debut party. Dateline NBC was there. So were Malt Advocate, Celebrator Beer News, BeeR, the Magazine, and The Pint Post, to mention a few. Many respected brewers were also in attendance. Chocolate and other goodies were laid out on silver plates, and I believe I saw more than one pinkie in the air during the tasting.
This was an incredible turnout considering the temperature on this July day was over 100 degrees, and that the event was a vertical tasting of heavy, strong, vintage beers --- of which the oldest was aged for only two years!
But this was no ordinary beer. This was Adambier --- a beer which, at such a young age, is considered by many as having the best aging potential of any American-brewed beer.
The vertical tasting consisted of the first ten batches of Adambier, ranging from 17 to 24 months old. Adambier, for those of you who have yet to enjoy one, is a strong, dark ale, approaching 10% alcohol by volume. It is also bottle conditioned, making it a prime candidate for aging. The ale is modeled after an old style once brewed in Dortmund, Germany, and is warm fermented and cold conditioned.
The hosts for the event were Alan Sprints and Doug Henderson, Hair of the Dog Brewing Co.'s owners, brewers, and might I suggest, visionaries. The tasting was held at the brewery, a rather simple industrial-looking building, at the end of a dead-end street, not unlike one you might see in a 1970's police drama chase scene.
We started with Batch #10 --- coincidentally Malt Advocate's choice for domestic Beer of the Year in 1995 --- and worked our way back to the very first batch. Shooting out of the blocks like Michael Johnson on a 200 meter sprint, our first Adambier of the day was exceptional. Richly flavored, with notes of complex fruit, chocolate, licorice, a hint of sherry, and a dryish roasted finish, it continues to improve with age. It is now softer, with a more reserved hop character than a year ago.
As we progressed through the tasting, we were able to detect generally subtle differences from one batch to the next --- Batch #9 being hoppier, Batch #8 being creamier, but less fruity, Batch #7 expressing more smokiness, Batch #6's purple grape notes, and so on. With the possible exception of slightly tart Batch #4, they all were wonderful, clearly demonstrating that this 'long strange trip' has just begun. I especially enjoyed the creamy, chocolatey, nicely married flavors of Batch #2. And just in case you were wondering, Batch #1 was in fine shape.
As if ten Adambiers weren't good enough for one afternoon, our generous hosts finished the even with sampling of Eve, their commercially unmarketed Adam 'Eisbier' (Adambier that was frozen, with the ice removed, creating an even stronger beer than Adam).
Looking back on the tasting that afternoon, I imagined a similar gathering this year in Portugal when Fonseca declared their two-year old 1994 port as an exceptional vintage. And while I'm sure the '94 Fonseca was flowing at the party in Portugal, just as the Adambier was that hot July day in Portland, both were not so much a vintage tasting, but rather a celebration of what the future will hold --- when these fine products are sampled again 15 or 20 years from now. And I, for one, will be there.
Small Beer --- 93One of the most complex beers at standard strength. How does one improve upon Hair of the Dog's fantastic Adambier? Make a version for quaffing! Just like their heavyweight Adambier, Small Beer is joyfully complex and similar in personality, yet it can be quaffed with relative ease. It's quite creamy, with complex notes of dark fruits (raisins, plums), chocolate, and licorice.
Style: Original Oregon Ale. Price: draft only. Availability: OR. (Hair of the Dog Brewing Company, 503-232-6585).