Monday, December 15, 2008

Doggie Claws and Jubel Vertical 2008

A few of us got together Saturday at Brett and Debbie's house, where Brett put together a vertical tasting of 6 years of Hair of the Dog's Doggie Claws -- 2002 to 2008, missing only 2007. The 2002 seemed to use a different recipe than the other years: from 2003 on the color was a beautiful mahogany, while the 2002 had a lighter --but still beautiful -- orange-gold color. A little grassier hop flavor in the 2002 than the later years, even though the labels for all had the same text about Simcoe and Amarillo hops.

All of the years were mighty fine barleywines, with plenty of power and maple/brown-sugar flavor. The 2008 was quite drinkable but will clearly benefit from more time in the bottle. My favorite was the 2006, it had smoothed out just enough, but not too much. I know a lot of people age big beers for many years, but I'm starting to form the opinion that two years is about the right amount. Like the Doggie Claws, the 2-year-old Roots Epic we had last month was just right; by contrast, the 3-year-old Deschutes Mirror Mirror at the Portland Holiday Ale Fest was past its prime. There are always exceptions: Matias opened a dark Belgian that he said was undrinkable right after he brewed it 6 years ago, but which was lovely Saturday.

Since we were already vertical, I dragged five years of Deschutes Jubel Ale up from the basement to take to Brett's. To be honest, we didn't detect much difference between the various years, except for the always terrible 2004 -- I got a bad case -- and the obviously fresh 2008. Even so, I'll take the 2006 as my favorite, since I've decided two years is the proper amount of time to age beer.

I could only find one six-pack holder to transport my Jubels in, but I discovered some beer geometry that I didn't know about before. You can put a six-pack holder into a grocery bag so that each corner touches a side of the bag, and it blocks off the corners of the bag so that you can put four more bottles in without the bottles clinking together. That's how you can carry 10 delicate beers with a single six-pack holder. To carry 12 delicate beers, arrange 10 of the bottles as above. Then open the other two bottles and drink the contents.

Here's an account of our Jubel vertical from last year. Coincidentally, that was the first real entry on this blog, and this post, about a year later, is the 100th entry. Cheers! to all of you: the friends who shared these beery adventures; the brewers and servers that kept us awash in good beer; and the readers and commenters who flattered me with your attention to this slightly silly project.


  1. Bill, I'm pretty sure that Dave will soon be brewing up a laser cut beer transporting system standardized to shopping bags after this least he finished the shower installation first.

  2. Thanks for adding to the tasting with the Jubel Bill. I'd have to say my favorite fell in the 2-3 year range, maybe I'd be somewhere inbetween since I prefer somewhat mellower flavors on big beers like these. Planning for next year, I'll shoot for 3 years for my liter of 2006 Doggie Claws and see what happens. The 2007 laurelwood barleywine maybe we'll try at 2 years, and I should have some interesting abyss next year too.

  3. Brett: I'll mark my calendar!

    Jill: Maybe he can figure out how to transport 11 beers.

  4. Bill - very nice! I have 2 bottles of 2007 Abyss to go along with 11 remaining 2008s. I'm planning to open one of the 07s with an 08 later this year, and save the last 07, along w/a few 08s for the 07-09 verticle Abyss next year, and hopefully 08-10/11 in the near future.

    I gave a buddy a magnum of Doggie Claws 5yrs ago that he hasn't opened yet. I sent a link to your post begging him to open it ASAP!

    - ASG

  5. ASG: yeah, I think the next special occasion he finds would be good. His Doggie Claws will be awesome.

    Your plan for long Abyss verticals makes more sense than my Jubel ones, since they change Abyss a little each year. It's just that Jubel is cheaper ;-).

  6. Bill,

    Can you post your linear tasting notes? I think that would be a fun read for future comparison.

  7. Doc: none of us wrote down any notes. You probably wouldn't want to see any notes I took; they're usually along the lines of "Awesome", "Awesomer", "Awesomest".

  8. Wow, as luck would have it a buddy and I did a vertical of DC 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008. The 2004 was a dark color vs. the mahogany of the others. I wonder if something started to happen to this beer since you describe them as all being mahogany colored. The 2006 was definitely my favorite. It has more of a honey/viscous mouth feel to me.

    I have also been wondering how long to store beers and I think 2 years is probably a safe bet (only if they are aging style beers of course). I have had one or two 4-year beers that were exceptional and others that started to get off characters. If a beer is going to go bad it usually happens pretty quickly. I have had several 1-year old beers that were off.

  9. I've had the '06, '07 and '08 Doggie Claws recently, and am sitting on an '05 waiting to get together with a friend with whom to share it (as it was the only bottle at the brewery when we went for a tour last June, and I was lucky enough to stumble upon it first).

    I will say, however, that this beer is one of the few (only?) barleywines I actually prefer fresh. When I picked up the latest batch at the '08 dock sale, what I had on tap tasted very much like floral honey - a flavor which I absolutely love… I was happy to see that the bottles retained that flavor, but the older ones don't have or lost that flavor - turning more into a sweet, typical barleywine, perhaps a tad too sweet for my tastes.

    This is in stark contrast to the Fred [from the Wood], which goes through a similar process, but starts out much drier and becomes comfortably sweet after about a couple months. I'm hoping the Cherry Adam will see a similar transfiguration.

    As for the Abyss, I find the '08 to be more drinkable (ie, less harsh by my personal taste) than the '07 even now… I'm still sitting on 3 bottles of the '07 waiting for it to smooth out a bit, while I enjoy my half-dozen or so bottles of the '08… :)


  10. anĂ³nimo wrote: When I picked up the latest batch at the '08 dock sale, what I had on tap tasted very much like floral honey...

    Sorry I'm a little late commenting on this. When I went to Hair of the Dog in May, the Doggie Claws on tap was made with cherry-blossom honey. It was indeed very tasty, but I don't think it's been sold in bottles.

    At the vertical, I liked this year's, but in my opinion the ones that had aged a year or two were better.