Southern Draft Brewing News

Lift Your Glass and Let Us Drink To the Future of Good Old Fred

Southern Draft Brew News, October/November 1996, Volume 4, No.1

Adamber tasting: sinfully sensational

A vertical tasting of 10 batches of bottle-conditioned Adambier, a high alcohol altbier brewed by Hair of the Dog Brewing Company, Portland, Oregon
by Fred Eckhardt

The time was the end of July, the first day of the Oregon Brewers Festival, I was responding to an invitation I deeply coveted: Hair of the Dog's vertical tasting of the first ten batches of their luscious Adambier.

Adambier has fascinating history. Dortmund Adambier, a top fermented altbier was, in the nineteenth century, a very strong brew, often aged 10 years or more. John Bickerdyke, in his curiosities of Ale and Beer, relates the following:

...when King Frederick William IV of Prussia (ruled 1840-1861) visited Dortmund a deputation of the magistrates waited upon him, one of them bearing a salver with a large tankard filled with Adam.

When the King asked what it was, and heard that it was the celebrated beer, he said 'Very Welcome; for it is extremely warm,' and drained off the contents of the tankard at a draught. The members of the deputation, smiled at each other, for they knew what would be the result. His Majesty was unconscious for more than twenty-four hours.

Adambier was famous for its time, and we have some specs on a couple versions - the 1864 Adambier at 33 years old had an original gravity of 1.111 (26 degrees Plata), alcohol at 9.23 percent alcohol by volume --- a sweeter beer with a terminal gravity of 1.035. An 1889 Adambier had an original gravity of 1.074 (18.1 degrees Plato), 9.3 percent abv, and dry with terminal gravity of 1.001. Michael Jackson, in the New World Guide published in 1988, mentions that it had been revived by the Dortmund Their Brewwery in their Hovels brewpub.

The Hair of the Dog Brewery was crowded and hot. Owners Doug Henderson and Alan Sprints were at their best, talking abou their "baby" --- the delightful Oregon Adambier, now in batch number 21 or so (each bottle has a batch number on the label). Batch No. 1 was brewed on July 6, 1994, bottled August 3, 1994 and released at the brewery opening August 23, 1995. The original gravity was 1.094 (22.9 degrees Plato, alcohol at 10.3 percent abv, international bittering units (IBUs) about 60 and terminal gravity abou 1.018, brewed with London Ale yeast from Wyeast labs, Troutdale, Oregon.

Hair's Adam is a very strong American-style altbier, similar to my recipe in the June/July issue of Southern Draft. The brewery still aims for these specs on current Adam production. Each bottle is bottle-conditioned and cold-aged. The batches differ only in the variations of handling, fermentation and storage conditions. This is certainly not a brew for the faint-hearted.

We started by tasting batch No. 10, the last to be called "Adambier" (it's just "Adam" now -- you can't call a strong beer "beer" in Oregon). No 10 was rated "Domestic Beer of the Year" by The Malt Advocate which noted that it was, ".. the best kept secret in the microbrewery business...[with] a complexity approaching a well matured [British Ale]."

The first note here was a "barleywine" nose from the high alcohol content. The beer had good roundness about it, with rich maltiness; very well balanced: heavy, yet smooth and refreshing, with a gratifying hopped roastiness about it. It was brewed January 1, 1995, bottled April 18, 1995, and was 17-months old upon tasting.

No. 9 was next, and quite different --- a different nose and sharper palate; it appears to need more time in the bottle. No 8 was more like no. 10, but with a bitter tail, and a hint of anise on the palate. No. 7, at 18 months old was quite pleasing with a mellower nose, more bitterness on the palate and a touch of "old" licorice too. No. 6 carried on nicely with a smooth nose, fuller body, good aftertaste, and was not quite as bitter as Nos. 7 and 8.

No. 5 was next on the list for tasting and by then, we were able to "feel" the beer. We were chuckling and relaxing more, despite Oregon's extreme July heat seeping into the brewery's un-airconditioned main brewing and staging area. This beer had a rather thin nose (or was that my nose that was getting thin?), but the taste was big with a welcomed sturdy aftertaste following an almost nutty palate, edging towards anise and lingering on the tail.

No. 4 had developed problems, and it was a pleasure to proceed with No. 3 with a redder, stronger head (a good sounding head), an innocuous nose, and an almost smoky palate with minimal, but delicious, aftertaste.

By this points, the party was going very well, thank you. I felt erudite, even argumentative, maybe even garralous. I looked around at the assembled mass of 50-60 folks, and I could see everyone was enjoying themselves despite the greater than 100-degree heat.

No. 2 had a darker head, which didn't hold up too long, and a good nose. It was a well-balanced brew, with a nice, but not too lingering tail. It was brewed August 10, 1994, bottled September 16, 1994 and aged 23 months.

Then, it was time for the piece de resistance, the sample we'd all waited so long for: Batch No. 1. This gem had a pale head, a rich aromatic nose, a good malty taste note, and a smooth, mellow aftertaste. Most enjoyable, it was clearly the class of the afternoon. We will have to wait and see how the beer handles itself in aging as it heads for the ten-year mark for which the orginal Adam was famous.

As it turned out, there was still more to come. Another beer was brought forth: Eve. You may remember that the biblical Eve came out of Adam's rib, and this "Eve" was no different. An ice-bock version of Adam, "accidentally" frozen the winter before last. Eve was an exceedingly strong version of Adam produced by accident. It can't be sold, but it can be drunk. Someone more erudite than I remarked this was "sword swallowers" beer.

Adam is worth a trip to Portland, no matter where you live. The brewery welcomes visitors, but be sure to call first.

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