Nov. 1, 2011
The Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws is the first Barleywine on The List that I wasn’t able to simply track down at the local liquor store. In fact, it required a trip to Portland, Oregon. Well, the good news is that I have family and Emily had a conference there this past weekend. So, we hopped on a plane, headed for the coast and touched down Thursday afternoon.
After getting settled in, we hopped in a cab and headed to the convention center where I dropped Emily off and then headed for my primary target in Portland, the Hair of the Dog Brewery.
When I arrived, it was not exactly what I expected. The tasting room is in a somewhat industrial part of town that is being rebuilt and gentrified. The building looks and feels like an old warehouse, but it is somehow cozy and inviting. Part of that inviting environment is the big, picture windows lining two of the walls. They let in a ton of sunlight and provide a nice view of downtown Portland. I snapped a couple of pictures of the skyline, but they did not turn out very well. Here’s one of them to the left, just to give you an idea of what I was looking at, but sorry about the quality there.
In addition to ordering an enormous plate of mac & cheese with pancetta, I also order this:
That’s the “Walk the Dog” beer flight, which includes 3 oz. pours of Adam, Fred, Ruth and Blue Dot IPA for $7. All four beers were good, but the Blue Dot IPA was outstanding and the Adam was much more interesting and tasty than I expected. I thought about starting with the Barleywine, but having never tried anything from HotD, I decided I wanted to know understand more of what the brewery was all about before I dove into a full pint for a review. What I learned during this small tasting was that Hair of the Dog does not do subtle. They go all out for every beer they make and there is clearly a lot of passion put into these brews. The Doggie Claws would be no exception.
After finishing up my food and the taster I cleansed my palate with a couple of slices of bread and a glass of water. It was time for Doggie Claws. While the 2011 Doggie Claws was still two weeks away from its release, the 2010 Doggie Claws was still on tap and aging quite well. So, what did I find when I dove into my first class of Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws Barleywine?
Location: Hair of the Dog Taproom
Cost: $4.50 (12 oz. pour)
Glassware: HotD Tulip Glass
Brewery Location: Portland, Oregon
Style: American Barleywine
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.16 – Excellent
My Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.13 – Excellent
Current Number of Reviews on Beer Advocate/Current Rank in Top 20: 434/12th
Brewery Description: Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws
Batch Released: November, 2010
APPEARNANCE: (4 out of 5) The Doggie Claws was presented in a tulip glass with about a half-inch of slightly off-white foam topping an orange-deep copper beer. There was a bit of a haze to go along with the chill of the freshly poured draft, but it cleared up quickly. The head retention was so-so as was the lacing, but overall this was a good looking beer.
SMELL: (3.5 out of 5) There was a surprising lack of aroma at first, but with a little bit of air it opened up a bit. Sweet spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger were present along with a good deal of caramel aromas.
TASTE: (4.5 out of 5) This is a very, very strong Barleywine - the 11.5% can be tasted (and felt). The Doggie Claws is an excellent example of the style, big and bold, sweet and sugary and very rich, but cut nicely with plenty of spice and fruit flavors. The sweet flavors are molasses, cinnamon, caramel and some sweet malt. Banana, dark fruit and a tiny hint of apple provide the fruitier flavors while some hops subtly linger in a strong supporting role.
MOUTHFEEL: (4 out of 5) The Doggie Claws is rich, thick and oily, but in no way is it mouthcoating. The finish is surprisingly clean and actually slightly dry. It is very pleasant. As I mentioned above, the 11.5% is certainly felt, it’s a fairly hot beer, but also so complex that the heat is easy to deal with and quickly masked.
OVERALL: (4 out of 5) So far, the Hair of the Dog offering has been my favorite Barleywine reviewed. I know it is still early, but it edged out the AleSmith Old Numbskull and my suspicion is that aside from the Behemoth from Three Floyds, this one will hold out against most of the others. We shall soon see. This was also one of the better and more memorable experiences I have had while tracking down a beer for the blog, which may have played a role in my enjoyment, but either way, the Doggie Claws is one hell of a Barleywine. It is a fantastic representation of the style and also would be a good intro for most rookie Barleywine drinkers.
DRAWBACKS: Very few in this one, but first off, I would have to say that while the heat was probably tempered a bit with a year of age on it, it was still there, just a touch too warm. Also, the fact that it took some time to develop a nose was frustrating. With a beer like this I want a big pop right up front. I want my nose to hit the glass and be surprised. None of these drawbacks, however, should prevent you from drinking, sharing or gifting this beer. It is bold and delicious and deserving of a nice, long tasting. Don’t blow through this one, savor it.