Monday, May 19, 2008

A Visit to Hair of the Dog

Hair of the Dog is less than two miles from my house, but somehow I never make it over to their Earth Day open house events, despite years of good intentions. I didn't even make it to FredFest there a couple weeks ago. But as luck would have it, Carla and I got in on a pizza-and-beer night at Hair of the Dog last Saturday. It was a benefit for our daughter's school -- also attended by owner Alan Sprints' kids -- that our friends David and Beverly were alert enough and thoughtful enough to reserve us a place at.

The pizza was gourmet, prepared in a mobile brick oven by Alan's brother-in-law Mark -- who also does awesome brick oven pita bread and sandwiches at the downtown farmer's market. But I don't want to talk about the pizza, I want to talk about the beer. Look at those taps, is that a thing of beauty or what? It's getting less rare to find Blue Dot around Portland on tap, and Greg is usually on at Higgins, but check out the lineup here (from left to right):

  • Jim 2007 (a blend of barrel-aged and fresh HotD beers)
  • Fred from the Wood (barrel-aged Fred)
  • Adam
  • Doggie Claws (this one made with cherry-blossom honey)
  • Fred
  • Blue Dot
  • Greg
Any one of these would put a smile on your face. All of them flowing freely made for a very enjoyable evening.

Fred from the Wood was the definite standout. Everyday Fred is already a delicious, strong Belgian-y ale. The barrel-aged Fred just turned it up another notch -- smoother, stronger, with more different flavors swirling around. It was startlingly foamy coming out of the tap, filling most of a small beer flute with head, but the head quickly -- in seconds -- turned into delicious nectar. I was glad to see that there were still some bottles of FftW for sale, $7/bottle or $140/case. There was a bit of mirth as we stood near a pallet of Fred from the Wood cases, and the less beer-fanatical members of our party guessed what a case would sell for: $25? $50? Hmm... $75?

The Doggie Claws made with cherry-blossom honey was another nice surprise, the holiday-season barleywine with extra honey/cherry sweetness. And Alan sampled out a Flemish Brown ale that's so new it hasn't been named yet. A little bit of those sour beers goes a long way with me, but if that's your cup of tea, this is one to keep an eye on: it was crisp and clean, not menacingly sour like some of them are.

For dessert, Alan did his science fair trick of making fast-frozen ice cream with liquid nitrogen. Not the Fred sherbet described recently by John Foyston -- it was chocolate raspberry with a little Adam for flavor. Dramatic, delicious, and a real time-saver.

This gathering was my chance to ask Alan about the variations I sometimes see in the Greg on tap at Higgins. He expressed surprise, saying that in his experience of keeping a keg on tap at the brewery, that it changed very little over time, and that he thought the batches were pretty consistent. He did say that he used a lighter malt this year than last, and indeed the Greg at the brewery was lighter in color and body than most of the pints I've had at Higgins.

It was a great evening; I'm glad I finally made the pilgrimage. Thanks to Alan and Eliana for putting on the event and supporting our beleaguered public schools!

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