The Erickson Report 10 Vol. 1, No. 3 / September 1995

Northwest's Unique Brewing Recipes : Hair of Dog Doesn't Howl at Moon --- Adambier And Golden Rose Sing On The Palate

Portland's tiny Hair of the Dog Brewery has clearly decided not to compete in the overcrowded amber ale, hefeweizen, and porter beer markets. The year-old brewery has positioned itself in the rarefied atmosphere of eccentric styles that make serious beer drinkers swoon and bring distributors scrambling to their doors. Their two beers---Adambier and Golden Rose---are what true beer lovers look for in far corners of Belgium, Germany, or England. Now all they have to do is jump on a plane for Portland.

Adambier, based on an ancient brewing style, and Golden Rose, a Belgian tripel, are not your brother's homebrewed lager or industrial bowser ale. They are beers you'd expect to find in Belgium or an artisan Alsatian brewery. They're higher in alcohol but, more importantly, full of rich, complex tastes reminiscent of a smoked barleywine or strong ale. Hints of raisin, molasses, or a secret spice tease the palate. Not a beer you'd toss back after an afternoon of mountain biking, but one you'd savor with a few friends after a great meal when the cigars come out.

Hair of the Dog is a partnership of two Portland homebrewers. Alan Sprints, who trained as a brewer at Widmer, was a chef and a homebrewer who discovered strong beers on a trip to Belgium a few years ago. Doug Henderson is a transplanted Californian who graduated in computer science from UC-Berkeley and moved to Portland 10 years ago and worked as a computer programmer. He began homebrewing at Berkeley and met Sprints in the Oregon Brew Crew club.

Every aspect of Hair of the Dog brings new meaning to the term ``hand-crafted.'' The custom-designed four-barrel brewing system consists mainly of old dairy tanks and a brew kettle retrieved from the fishing industry. Adambier, their first beer, uses five specialty malts (Munich, caramel, chocolate and a dash of peat malt to give a hint of smoke) and finishes with 8 percent alcohol by weight.

The idea for Adambier came from a reference to a strong Adambier in the 19th century text, John Bickerdyke's ``Curiosities of Ales and Beer'', a classic work describing English drinking and social customs. Sprints and Henderson created their own recipe in collaboration with Fred Eckhardt, a well-known Portland beer writer who specializes in beer styles. ''We consider ourselves a premium microbrewery,'' Sprints said in an interview with The Erickson Report in Portland. ''We try to bring new and unique styles to the market. We're always looking for old beer styles that we can resurrect or new beer styles we can introduce.''

Their second beer, Golden Rose, is a Belgian tripel, made with a Belgian Aromatic pale malt, Belgian candy sugar, Canadian honey malt and ale yeast. It finishes with 6 percent alcohol by weight, a truly wicked brew (no pun intended, Pete), that was Hair of the Dog's feature at the Oregon Brewers Festival. In a year, Sprints and Henderson have brewed only 10 batches of Adambier and five of Golden Rose. Each batch is numbered on the label. Their annual production of 200-300 barrels is sold mostly in Oregon with a small amount of production going to Washington. Distributors from California, the Midwest and East Coast have sought a supply, but production is too small to accomodate regular deliveries outside the Northwest.

'We saw that there are imported, American micro, domestic beers,'' Sprints said, ''and there was room in between micros and imports. We consider ours a beer for connoisseurs, those who appreciate interesting flavors. We emphasize high-alcohol beers. In the future we could introduce a barleywine or maybe a strong fruit ale---something with ingredients you wouldn't expect to find in a beer.'' Adambier and Golden Rose remain in primary, secondary, and tertiary fermentation tanks for two to three weeks. Then they are bottle conditioned for two weeks before shipment. Sprints and Henderson recommend lying down a few bottles to age like a Thomas Hardy Ale. Their beers are packaged in conventional 12-oz. bottles that retail for $2.50-$3.00.

''We weren't interested in doing what everyone else was doing when we started our brewery,'' Henderson said. ''We weren't going to do a brown ale, pale ale, and stout. We wanted to do bottle-conditioned beers that are unique and improve with age---something like you'd find in Belgium or Germany.'' Henderson has tried blueberry pilsener and peach pilsener homebrew recipes that might become future styles for Hair of the Dog. He'd like to use Oregon ingredients to create a seasonally released local product.

Adambier made such an impression when it was featured at an afternoon tasting at Northwest Craft Brewers Conference on July 26 that Henderson and Sprints were besieged with requests from the trade press for a tour of the brewery, which is in an industrial area of southeast Portland. Although closed for the weekend, they opened for a brief tour and tasting Friday afternoon before the Oregon Brewers Festival began. One Eastern beer publisher missed a ride to tbe brewery and spent the rest of the festival complaining about the lost opportunity.

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