Up and Adam

by Kurt Wolff

With a name like Adam, this beer may sound simple, but don't be fooled. Produced by the Hair of the Dog Brewing Company in Portland, Ore., Adam is an incredible, supergourmet ale with a mess of complex flavors all packed into a single bottle. Frankly, it's one of the best beers I've ever tasted.

I just found a stash on the shelves of Beverages and More (201 Bayshore, S.F.) --- A real treat, since I never thought the stuff would be sold outside of Oregon.

Adam has a dark, opaque, stoutlike color, and the taste is rich, strong, and powerful like a barley wine. It's slightly sweet but not syrupy; a roasted, smoky flavor (from Scottish peated malt) undercuts and balances the sweetness. The beauty is that no single flavor overpowers any other---Adam is an extremely well-balanced ale. The roasted flavor differentiates it from a straight-up barley wine such as Old Foghorn---yet it's never bitter the way a heavy stout can be. And like a barley wine, the alcohol content is high---8 percent by weight is what it says on the label.

Adam is really a beer style unto itself, explains Hair of the Dog co-owner Doug Henderson. Henderson says it originated in Dortmund, Germany, in the 1800's, but his partner, Alan Sprints (the brewery's only other employee), notes that Hair of the Dog is now Adam's only producer. Traditionally, Adam is an aged ale---Henderson says the Germans used to "lay it down" for 10 years.

Hair of the Dog is small (the company produced just 200 barrels last year), and it's been in business only a little more than two years. Sprints, who was formerly a brewer at Widmer, explains that he and Henderson are most influenced by European techniques and styles; their only other product is Golden Rose, a Belgian Tripel Style Ale. It's a golden-colored ale that's lighter in body than the Adam, with a hint of sweetness and a heady, yeasty flavor that's rich but far from overbearing.

Hair of the Dog brews in small amounts (only 6,000 bottles are produced per batch of Adam; for Golden Rose it's 10,000), and each bottle is given a batch number (mine was 15). Both beers are also bottle-conditioned, and they're built to be stashed in a cellar much like a decent wine, after which the flavor will supposedly improve. Henderson says that Adam will likely last 10 or 20 years, Golden Rose 3 to 5 --- that is, of course, if you can keep from drinking it for that long. The stuff is pretty hard to resist.

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