Michael Hair Of The Dog

Hair Of The Dog: Michael (USA: Sour Ale: 6.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy cherry red, dash of off white head around the edges.

Nose: Vinous. Red cherries. Bourbon and fruitcake. Very smooth and just slightly tart. Toffee and vanilla. Light oak.

Body: Tart. Sour cherries. Smoke. Oak. A light vinegar like touch, but understated.

Finish: Light oak. Tannins and tea. Almond slices. Quite dry. Light toffee. Red wine. Slight acid at the back of the throat.

Conclusion: A Belgium style sour ale in memory of Michael Jackson. How very appropriate. For those who don’t know, Michael Jackson was  huge Belgium beer fan and responsible for a lot of publicity for many almost forgotten beer styles from Belgium.

This is surprisingly smooth for a sour ale, tart and with a Rodenbach Grand Cru style vinegar touch, but by the standard of the style it is very easy going, possibly as a result of the oak ageing it has had.

The beer is, however, very dry in the finish, and there it is the most complex, mixing red wine and bourbon influences in an amazing fashion.  It is a hard beer to compare to the usual go to beer for Sour Reds, the aforementioned Rodenbach Grand Cru. That beer, which I drank early in my beer hunting life, is far more challenging but gives a lot for it.  Michael is far more accessible, but doesn’t quite have the insane style of Rodenbach, I guess you always have a trade off on these things.

It is however, very nicely tart, with brilliant fruitcake and bourbon sweetness and the use of the sharpness is so that it refreshes rather than cuts.  It is very interesting, and the oak influence on this style results in a very different beer to normal. Unusually for Hair Of The Dog, it is not one of the best in the style, being “merely” very good instead of a world best. Despite being very tasty with the mix of bourbon and sour elements, its smoothness seems to have robbed it of that almost holographic range of flavour you get with the best sours.

Still, if not the best, that says more about the competition than the beer. As a beer in itself it has a lovely smoothness, but does not compromise of the core challenge of the sour red style.  For a testament to a great beer writer it stands up well.

Background: Drunk on my last night in Tokyo, in the Craftheads bar, with fine beer and great company. This beer is dedicated to Michael Jackson, the beer hunter and whisky chaser, and one of the inspirations that started me on my reviewing path. So, yes you have him to blame. So we had, Hair of The Dog, one of my all time favourite breweries, doing a beer dedicated to the late Michael Jackson, a Yorkshireman, drunk on my last night in Japan. You really couldn’t get a better mood for drinking this. This beer has been aged in oak casks before release. Incidentally, while this is the last beer review in Japan, I thought i’d bring back a few bottles with me to review, so its not over yet!