Monday, December 20, 2010

Hair of the Dog Tasting Room

Yikes!  I finally sit down to grind out this ridiculously late post on Hair of the Dog's new tasting room -- well, it opened in mid-August -- only to discover that Dr. Wort came along just yesterday and turned in an uncharacteristically coherent report on the same subject.  (Uncharacteristically ass-kissing, also.  Geez, Doc, were you visited by three ghosts Saturday night?  Wasn't there anything you can fault Alan on?  That sweatshirt he's wearing in your picture isn't exactly Haute Couture -- are you sure that guy's really a high-class chef?)

Anyway, since I can't outdo Dr. Wort this time -- nor these earlier reports from The Beer Cave and Beervana --  I'll just get a few scattered observations out of my brain and then move on.

Location, location, location. Buying his own place, very centrally located, with a beautiful view of downtown across the river, was an ingenious move on Alan's part.  Remember how hard it was to figure out how to get to the old place, beneath an underpass and behind the railroad tracks?  Parking may be an issue, but it's also a place that's very accessible by bicycle, so maybe putting up a bunch of bike racks could help alleviate that.  He's also right across the street from the new, improved sidewalk across the Morrison Bridge -- in good weather it would be a nice stroll for downtown hotel guests.

Bankers' hours.  2 to 8 PM?  Not sure if I've ever heard of a business with those opening hours, and it's especially weird for a pub -- you're not open for lunch, not open for night owls, and barely open for dinner.  Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Big Dog, Little Dog.  It looks like there will almost always be a 3-4% ABV small beer on tap, made from the second runnings of one of HOTD's bigger beers.  I've had the Doggie Claws Little Dog a couple of times, and it's something really unique and wonderful.  It's light, but hoppy, not sweet at all, but satisfying.  I can't think of any other beer I've had with the same flavors.  Besides allowing you to pace yourself, the Little Dogs are also significantly cheaper than the regular lineup -- $2.50 a glass vs. $4.50 and up.  Word is that there is currently a Matt Little Dog on tap, with the somewhat smoky flavor of the Adam/Matt brew.

Look busy.  I haven't been there enough, but I don't really understand the kitchen situation.  It always looks like Alan and someone else are working really hard with big open flames in the open kitchen, but the menu consists mostly of prefab stuff like charcuterie or hummus plates.  The food seems a little overpriced to me for what it is, with the exception of the beef-brisket appetizer, which seems like quite a bargain for $6 if you share it around.  [Update 2011/04/16: alright, now I've had an excellent, moderately-priced meal there.  I take it all back.]

The best of beers.  In 2009 Hair of the Dog made an exclusive beer for Bottleworks in Seattle called Matt. It wasn't sold in Portland, but I was lucky enough to try it at the old brewery during a private party that was held as a school fundraiser.  It was amazing.  It's a strong, dark, smoky beer along the lines of Adam -- same basic recipe? -- that is then aged in apple brandy barrels from Clear Creek Distillery.  This year Alan made a new batch, that was sold in 12-ounce bottles for $15.  That's a pretty hefty price tag, but it really is a stellar beer -- I've already shared a couple of bottles, and it's delicious.

The worst of beers.  Now, on the other hand, there were a couple of very questionable beers on tap at the tasting room the weekend that Matt was released last month:  two versions of Fred from the Wood, one aged on peaches, and one on apricots.  The peach one was tolerable -- though not as good as plain ol' Fred from the Wood -- but the apricot one was very vinegary, with the added insult of acetone.  Not just a little vinegar, and a little acetone, but copious, sinus-clenching quantities.  Debbie caught Brett's first taste of it on this video: you can tell it's not a minor flaw in the beer, but something overwhelming. 
Frankly, it should not have been served, and I have to wonder why Alan let it out the door.  If you wanted to offer free tastes to adventure seekers, maybe.  But charging $3 for small tasters of a bad mistake is not a very good move.

So, from one of the veterans of Portland's beer scene, a promising new start, despite the apricot-vinegar misfire. The tasting room is sure to be a prominent fixture for years to come, especially if it can start staying open past 8.


  1. Bill, as of last Friday Little Dog is $2.50 a glass. I've been really enjoying them as well.

    Matt is a different recipe from Adam, the malts are listed on the bottles, a few munich and a couple smoked malts I believe.

    I do have to disagree about the food, I think the prices are pretty good for the quality you're getting. Not saying I'm eating there all the time, but the few meals I've had have been outstanding. I do wish they had a slightly less expensive cheese or meat plate suited more for one person, would be nice to have something to snack on when not in a group.

  2. Thanks, Derek. And the other beers start at $4.50, right? I should have been taking better notes.

    Glad to hear it about the food. What did you have that you liked?

  3. As for parking, it's not clearly marked from the street, but the lot that borders the building to the north, behind the fence, has a long row of parking spaces with signs indicating it's parking "for hair of the dog customers only". It's a pretty big lot.

  4. @ DA

    I agree on the food. You get what you pay for. Alan's not serving Sysco made burgers and Buns with pre-cut pre-frozen french fries. This is quality handmade food, not your typical guttural PUB crap. Come on! Salumi from Seattle. I can't find that at the most Gourmet Market in Portland! Alan is giving the public something above the rest. He's elevating the bar and the locals palates or at least giving them the opportunity to be educated. ;-} I'll go back to do a better food review.


    Let me answer your questions. ;-}

    "Uncharacteristically ass-kissing"

    I give credit and respect to those who deserve it. Not to those who are a flash in the pan, who so happens to be new on the scene and can brew ONE decent beer. We should all promote these people because.... uh.... I still don't know why people are highly promoted for no reason! Tired of the false pride mentality bullshit!

    "Geez, Doc, were you visited by three ghosts Saturday night?"

    The Doc is already a "realist" He sees things the way they are... Not the way others tell him to perceive or have delusions over. We have a world of leaders and followers. Look around.... Any Moron can follow.

    "Wasn't there anything you can fault Alan on?"

    Alan is very respectable guy. He's always brewed out of a labor of love, rather than a labor for money. He would have closed his doors years ago if that was the case. He's a smart and careful non-arrogant businessman. He's a very nice guy and has passion for everything he does. I can say nothing bad about Alan.

    "That sweatshirt he's wearing in your picture isn't exactly Haute Couture."

    I don't judge people on what they wear... unless it's overalls with a Mullet!

    "are you sure that guy's really a high-class chef?"

    I didn't say he was a high-class chef. I said he was a "TRAINED CHEF." Meaning he has been educated and holds the title of CHEF. He's not your typical High School or less educated Grease Cook standing behind a grill waiting for you to fawn over their BBQed Pulled Pork Sandwich with his flair of Cold Slaw or deep frying skills of the pre-made pre-frozen Jalapeno Poppers!

    "uncharacteristically coherent report "

    Does that mean I used words that you could understand? ;-}

  5. I may have to go try that Apricot Fred just to see if it would win the DMS for bad beer. Just having a HotD beer on the list is amazing/amusing. But to beat Migration's best bitter, it would have to be rockin' bad.

  6. @jeff

    as much as I hate to include HotD in the same sentence as migration, that apricot fred definitely gives anything migration has ever done a run for it's money in the DMS category.

    It's also no longer available for you to try.

  7. @Doc: Saying your HOTD post was "uncharacteristically coherent" came off a little nastier than I meant it, but only a little :-}. It was a really nice writeup, and made me realize I better not write a similar post because you had already nailed it well.

    And I wasn't really making fun of Alan's sweatshirt, just your sunny attitude.

  8. @Doc: Forgot to mention, there are lots of places in Portland to get Salumi. Pastaworks, City Market, and I'm pretty sure they had some at the Cheese Bar.

  9. @Bill

    No worries Bill. The Doc didn't take offense to anything. He's got pretty thick skin.

    "Sunny Attitude" is Doc Worts trademark. Gotta throw out something positive once in a while. Keep ya all guessing.

    Thanks for the Salumi info....


Thanks for leaving a comment! I will delete spam and long stupid comments. Comments that are smart or short will survive.

Please tag anonymous comments with your name, initials, or CB handle so that people can respond to you.