* Quote from an article in Maxim Online by Tim Clark
Followers of this blog will already know that Portland’s Eastside Industrial District is a thriving area as evidenced by the post on the resurrected Produce Row Café on 12/7/15. There are also a lot of good restaurants such as Clark Lewis, Olympic Provisions and bars such as Bunk Bar, Side Door and My Father’s Place.
Essentially the same folks who enjoyed Produce Row, recently tried the Hair of the Dog Brewery and Tasting Room on a Thursday night and then we walked through the inaugural Portland Winter Light Festival after drinks and dinner.
This brewery, founded in 1993 and one of Portland’s earlier micro-brew enterprises has differentiated itself from others as described on its website:
“Hair of the Dog Brewing Co is dedicated to providing the beer lover with new and unusual beer styles. Several of our beers are bottle-conditioned or re-fermented in the bottle resulting in beers which improve with age. Beers that are bottle-conditioned have a built-in shelf life.
They can be stored at room temperature (50–74 degrees F) and will continue to mature in the bottle for several years like a fine wine. We make only a small amount of beer and each bottle has a unique bottling number. This number changes every 5000 bottles, or 200 cases.”
Now there is some debate about whether the aging process or re-fermentation does, in fact, improve the beer, but the comments on their beer are generally good and there is no debate that it is strong. For example, one article stated the average micro-brew ABV (alcohol-by-volume) is slightly less than 6%. HoD beer is generally much stronger as you will see below.
Perhaps the high ABV is the rationale for the name of the brewery, since the Urban Dictionary defines “hair-of-the-dog” as an “alcoholic beverage consumed to ease a hangover.”
One of HoD’s beers, “Dave,” which is no longer produced, had an ABV of 29% and was rated by “Beer Tutor” as the twelfth strongest beer in the world in an undated post. According to Wikipedia, “The high alcohol level was achieved by repeated freezing and removal of the frozen water, a process called freeze distillation.”
They had nine of their twenty beers on tap that night and the beers we tried were as follows:
Bourbon Fred from the Wood – 10% ABV
Blue Dot – 7% ABV Ruth – 5% ABV
Fred – 10% ABV
That compares with one of Thebeerchaser’s standard favorites – PBR with an ABV of 4.74%.
Some Comments on Beer Ratings!
Although this blog is primarily about bars and not the intricacies of the beer itself, let’s talk a little about Beer Ratings from the view of a non-connoisseur. According to Wikipedia (okay, its not the Oxford Encyclopedia but remember this is a blog post not a Harvard Business Review article) BeerAdvocate (has a “database contain(ing) about 3,783,570 ratings of about 100,976 beers,” on 11/13/15.
RateBeer, founded in 2000, which at an unspecified time in the last ten years, “….had 4.5 million ratings of almost 200,000 beers, from nearly 16,000 breweries.”
BeerAdvocate is a great resource on beer terminology, home brewing, the history of beer and does explain rating criteria – appearance (6%), taste (40%), smell (24%) and mouthfeel (10%).
But I tend to agree with their staff member who wrote, “Many see reviewing as an unnecessary process best left to geeks…..” So rather than get caught up with what the experts think – see some of that below – let’s look a bit at what the common person thinks about HoD beer. These are a few comments on Yelp from different time periods and seem to be consistent:
“The beer was complex and delicious. 3/26/13
“Well balanced beer.” 3//13
“Beers were expensive, but excellent. You won’t get these beers anywhere else and it’s well worth the $ spent.” 2/22/14
“Not your typical beer.”
“Beer was very much for the adventurous, ABVs all pretty punchy. Delicious beer though.” 9/8/15
And a comparison by our “Walking/Drinking Group” (WGD!), who in the last eight months has visited Ecliptic Brewing, Produce Row in addition to HoD (see the links for Thebeerchaser’s review). Produce Row does not brew its own beer but has twenty-three beers on tap.
Keeping in mind that there were two tax lawyers in our groups of six at HoD and eight people at the other two venues, you can understand why there was no consensus except with the tax lawyers in their animated discussion on the benefits derived under sum-of-the-digit depreciation (SOD) pursuant to Section 167 of the Internal Revenue Code.
“‘SOD,’ as accelerated depreciation, better matches costs to revenues because it takes more depreciation in the early years of an assets’ useful life,”
“‘SOD’ reflects more accurately the difference in usage of different assets from one period to the other.”
A majority in our group liked the beer at Ecliptic best and thought the beers on tap at HoD okay but pretty hoppy. “I had the Bourbon Fred from the Wood, and would recommend it. Heavy, full of flavor. (My wife) had the Blue Dot, and it was ok. We shared a Fred, and it was tasty. And my wife and I each had the Ruth, which was fine, but not exceptional. Another had the Fred and stated, “I was not impressed by any of the beers available.”
One annoyance at HoD, and not one found at most of Thebeerchaser’s prior stops, was the inability to taste any of the beers before having to make a purchase.
The brewery would respond that they had three-ounce samplers available, but they cost between $1.25 to $3.25 and a patron should not have to shell out that sum or any amount just for a small “sip” of beer. I hope this is not a trend. Come on guys…that’s the cost of doing business and especially when you pride yourself on “new and creative beer styles.”
More on Beer Ratings……
RateBeer brags that it has “the world record holder for complete beer reviews, RateBeer’s Jan Bolvig of VestJylland, Denmark has over 36,000 beer reviews to his credit.” Now not to be cynical, but I’m not sure that I would put a lot of credence in a guy’s palate (or liver…) once he had sampled that many beers.
And, for example, a guy named Joe who has a blog called “Epic Curiousity,” mapped out the locations of BeerAdvocate’s “World’s Best 250 Beers” as of June 2014. At least ten or 11% pf the 89 from the Western US and Alaska were from Oregon. (214 of the 250 were from the US.) Oregon’s highest was “The Abyss” from Deschutes Brewery at #33 with a rating of 4.5. Following it was Hair of the Dog’s “Adam of the Wood” at #55 with a rating of 4.45.
Others in the top 250 were Cascade Brewing’s “Sang Noir” at #65 (4.41), Pelican Brewing’s “Mother of All Storms” at #69 (4.41), HoD’s “Matt” at #87 (4.39), Hood River’s Logsdon Farmhouse Ale’s “Peche ‘n Brett” at #116 (4.35) and Bend’s Boneyard Brewing “Hop Venom Double IPA” at #117 (4.35), Boneyard’s “Notorious Triple IPA” at 142 (4.32), Cascade Barrel House’s “Cascade Apricot Ale” at #171 (4.3), Cascade’s “Cascade Sang Royal” at #182 (4.3) and Cascade’s “Cascade Noyaux” #210 (4.28).
A quick review of BeerAdvocate’s most current ratings shows eight Oregon beers in the top 250 with Deschute’s “Abyss” again the highest (#45) and no new Oregon beers or breweries appeared to make it.
And Trillium Brewery of Boston has an astounding fourteen of their beers in the list, which begs the question about the impact of marketing and politics on the ratings, especially because “Trillium opened in March 2013 with the support of family, volunteers, two babies, and three employees.”
Now how they distinguished between a rating of 4.39 and 4.35, I don’t know, but perhaps it’s because BeerAdvocatate promotes its sophisticated formula: “We use the same true Bayesian estimate formula used by the Internet Movie Database for calculating average ratings.” To further the rationale, perhaps they use Robert Redford, Emily Blount and Robert De Niro as raters although I think Redford flunked statistics in college.
So in concluding this rant, rather than use elements of Bayesian statistics such as posterior predictive and the principle of maximum entropy, etc., I would recommend just going to one of Portland’s 750+ watering holes or Oregon’s “234 brewing facilities operated by 194 breweries” (Oregon Craft Beer website) and tasting the beers yourself. Or consider using the close-to-home 2016 Oregon Beer Awards sponsored by Willamette Week as a reference. (They primarily use local experts such as Beerchaser of the Quarter, Lisa Morrison, and Rob Widmer as their blind tasters.)
However, Beer Advocate concludes its top 250 beer list with the admonition, “But enough nerd talk. Let’s drink a beer!” Thebeerchaser thinks that’s good advice unless you are reading this post at 3:00 AM.
Now Back to Hair of the Dog!
The servers and staff were also courteous and responsive. (For example, our waitress opined, “Switching from ‘SOD’ depreciation to the straight-line method during the life of the asset has some advantages that should be considered.”
How about the food? Two of us had the grilled cheese sandwich and rated it outstanding although there was some disappointment that only chips rather than fries were available as a supplement. One comment about the Reuben and the special sandwich was “the food was ok, but not particularly memorable,” and another stated, “the brisket was okay but not great.”
And another annoyance, but worth commenting on, albeit not confined to HoD and asked rhetorically, “Why can’t I get horse radish dressing for my Rueben? This is a reoccurring issue I have in Portland when I order a Rueben?”
I suggested that he try the Goose Hollow Inn that proudly (and I might add with possible justification, advertises “The Best Reuben on the Planet!”
To summarize on the menu, I think all of us thought the food was okay and reasonably priced, but of the three aforementioned venues, the food at Produce Row was superior.
We finished with a very nice stroll down the Eastside Esplanade observing the Winter Light Festival, which had some technical glitches and being the inaugural event, can show improvement in the future. But it was “enlightening” and a credit to the City and its sponsors – something to anticipate next year.
61 SE Yamhill Street Portland