- Oct 26 '16
Oregon’s Hair of the Dog Brewing Company is well known for its unique beers and brewery; its wide selection of imaginative and original brews along with their famous pairing menu make the Portland brew house one of a kind. (For more breweries in the Greater Portland area check this out!) Additionally, Hair of the Dog was one of the first to experiment with aging beer, both in bottles and barrels, and is widely considered a pioneer in the realm.
With a production rate of less than 700 barrels a year, Hair of the Dog beers are coveted beverages across the nation. However, despite the increasing demand for its beer, the brewery has no plans to expand. They value their craft, and they have it down to a science. In fact, Hair of the Dog’s brewer and founder, Alan Sprints, takes a personal approach to the craft. Once a week for a 24-hour span, the team buckles down to brew, and they bottle their perfectly aged brews two to three times a month.
During Michael’s trip to the Northwest brewery, he had the opportunity to assist in the brewing of one of Hair of the Dog’s most popular beers: Matt. Named in honor of two Seattle-based beer masters and the owners of Bottleworks beer shop, the brew is intense to say the least; deep, dark, and rich with hints of chocolate and plum, the resulting flavors of the complex and time-consuming brewing process seem to “jump out at you,” according to Michael. With an ABV of 12.5% to match the bold taste, it’s no wonder that this dry, smooth beer is one of Hair of the Dog’s most renowned.
Using five different malts (a British crystal malt to add caramel notes; a Munich malt to enhance the malty base; a German rauch malt to bring smoky undertones; an English-grain black malt to provide rich color and a slightly roasted profile, and; a Scottish malt), the first stage of brewing Matt at Hair of the Dog happens in stainless steel dairy equipment. To create the strong flavor and alcohol content, brewers sparge the mixture (or push the good wort down to rinse the grain and keep soluble sugars up), ensure that the environment encourages evaporation, and use less water than they would with other brews. This creates a significant amount of leftover sugar from the grain, but fear not: it does not go to waste. Instead, Hair of the Dog uses the remaining components to create Little Dog: a beer with a similar character profile but with toned-down flavor and alcohol content.
The next step is adding the hops (magnum hops when brewing Matt) before the wort is cooled and the beer is pumped into upright fermenter tanks. After a week in these tanks, the liquid is then transferred to horizontal tanks for two weeks, which further conditions the brew. While most beers would be bottled at this point, Matt is put into Kentucky bourbon and Apple Eau de Vie barrels and then aged for two years in the casks.
FUN FACT: One of the first American breweries to use barrel-brewing methods, Hair of the Dog has been using casks since 1994. Over the last few years, barrel-aged beer has seen a huge increase in popularity as more and more people have been introduced to strong, intense brews.After a few years, the barrels are hosed off (to avoid getting dust in the beer), and the aged brew is pumped into a mixing tank. At this point, the beer is quite clear and free of sediment, as most of the residue has settled at the bottom of the casks. After the aged beer has been pumped into the mixing tank, a small portion of freshly brewed Matt is added in order to encourage carbonation after the bottling process.Hair of the Dog beer is bottled using a basic wine-filler; since it’s bottled in a non-carbonated state, no advanced machinery or counter-pressure is required. Then, brewers take turns operating the hydraulic, foot-operated capper before sending the freshly bottled beer to sit in a warm room, which causes the yeast to ferment. After a short stint in the warm room, Matt’s brewing process is finally over and the beer is ready for consumption.
This is where another aspect of Hair of the Dog’s uniqueness comes into play. Their tasting room offers a menu filled with delicious plates, all of which pair perfectly with a variety of beers.
One of founder Alan Sprints’ favorites is his famous Chuck Norris Duck Wings, which have a “mighty punch and a strong kick.” Infused with a variety of spices, the meaty duck wings are sautéed with spicy peppers and a variety of veggies before being marinated in Little Dog beer during a 3-hour slow cook in the oven. The resulting tender, smoky wings are served on a bed of herbs and paired with Doggie Claws brew. The sweet barley wine has strong pine and citrus flavors, along with caramel notes and cinnamon spiciness, which balances out the kick of the plate, and the malty qualities of both the beer and the duck create a perfectly symbiotic duo.
Other popular Hair of the Dog dishes include the brisket (cooked with Little Dog) and the ribs (marinated in Blue Dot). The first is paired with a strong, golden ale called Fred, which has toffee notes and a smooth finish. With 10 different hops, a high alcohol content, and Belgian candy sugar, the surprisingly light beer adds a delectable sweetness to the savory brisket. The ribs, on the other hand, are paired with Hair of the Dog’s double IPA, Blue Dot. The intense hoppy flavor of the brew and its fruity qualities create a new, mouth-watering twist to the dish.
All in all, Hair of the Dog offers some of the most distinct and inimitable brews and pairings. Their tried-and-true methods and their daring creativity make them, in our opinion, one of the top craft breweries in the nation.