Tag Archive: Hair Of The Dog


Siren: Fred In London (England: Barley Wine: 11% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed gold. Thin yellowed head. A small amount of small bubbled carbonation. Some suds left by the head.

Nose: Golden syrup and brown sugar. Brown bread. Crushed hard sweets. Dried apricot. Fresh dough.

Body: Fresh bread. Sulphur smoke touch. Brown sugar. Raspberry hard sweets. Dried apricot. Golden syrup. Oily hop bitterness. Brown bread. Honey.

Finish: Golden syrup to treacle. Earthy bitterness. Sour cream note. Oily hop character. Kiwi. Nutty

Conclusion: There are three explanations I can think of my my views on, and reactions to this beer compared to Hair Of The Dog’s original. 1) My previous experiences with Hair of The Dog’s Fred have been with aged examples due to how long it took me to get and drink them, while this is a relatively fresh beer. 2) My memory has exaggerated how great that beer was compared to my experience now. 3) This beer is, in fact, not as good as Hair Of The Dog: Fred.

This is very golden syrup and brown sugar sweet. Very much using the malt needed for the high abv to make it a sugar shock of a hit. By comparison the hop character seems a lot simpler – giving slight kiwi and dried apricot notes, then an odd British real ale feeling touch of sulfur smoke and light earthy hop notes in the finish.

So, based on an ever fallible memory, this is not as good as the Hair Of The God classic. So, does it hold up as a beer in itself instead then?

Well, it has simple, but joy bringing notes. Big golden syrup, big brown sugar and hop oils, wth light but oily bitterness. The smoke, small as it is, adds extra depth – but for all that it feels like a middle of the road barley wine.

In the good news, it does hide the alcohol well. There is a hint in the flavor, but no burn with that – very smooth overall without going so far as to make it seem not beer like – however it seems fairly standard rather than a stand out experience.

Unless my memory is lying to me this is not a patch on the original Fred. Ok, but not up to its heritage.

Background: I freaking love Hair Of The Dog beers, and Fred is one of the first few I ever tried of them. Siren have had a good run with remaking other peoples’ beers in collaboration – most notably their take on Even More Jesus – so when I heard they were doing a collaborative remake of Fred, I decided it was a must grab. This was grabbed from Brewdog’s online store and drunk while listening to Akala: Knowledge Is Power – Vol 2. Still blows me away how good Akala is.

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Hair Of The Dog Bourbon Fred

Hair Of The Dog: Bourbon Fred From The Wood (USA: Barley Wine: 12% ABV)

(2012 Edition, Drunk 2013)

Visual: Reddened bronze. Off white head of tight bubbles.

Nose: Thick caramel. Rye. Bourbon. Candyfloss. Orange sherbet and orange sorbet. Vanilla. Mint chocolate hard boiled sweets. Marzipan. Honeycomb.

Body: Creamy. Orange liquore. Lemon sherbet. Thick texture. Apricot and ginger bread. Light bitterness below.  Toffee and treacle. White grapes. Choc mint and choc orange. Crystallised fruit sugars. Fruitcake.

Finish: Chocolate mint and chocolate fondue. Tangerine. Candyfloss. Sweet grapefruit. Fudge. Light oak. Honey. Rye crackers. Raisins. Liquorice.

Conclusion: I had to review my Fred tasting notes on drinking this, so to confirm my thoughts. This beer is very different to that one.

Not entirely different, but where that was thick, this is thicker still and creamier. This is sweeter, with the hop bitterness soothed away to toffee and fudge flavours then choc mint sweets and orange liquore. While the bitterness is nearly gone the hop flavours are not. The apricot, sweet grapefruit and fruit sugars all call to wise hop usage.

It is still amazingly complex, but in more bourbon led ways an so much sweeter that it is in danger of becoming sickly later on. I feel bad criticising it as it is glorious, but it does lack the subtlety of implementation that the raw Fred has. There is a bit more booze feel from the bourbon.

Of the two the raw unaged Fred is the best, this however is still bloody nice. The mix of thick creamy and treacle heavy body don’t in any way hide the light sorbet flavours or the chocolate sweetness. In fact the mix of texture and fruit makes it almost like a trifle, or more appropriately some more refined chefs top dessert drenched in fine booze. There is a blend of fruit sugar and jelly confectionary but with class and style.

So, it does have flaws. Over sweet. Alcohol is noticeable. The cheaper Fred is more subtle and better.
Let’s ignore that for a moment. Let’s instead look at the sheer range it brings. This is Hair Of The Dog. Their worst is better than many breweries best. The beer shifts over time, heavier fruitcake coming out and more oak.  Let it play with heat, cool, time and food and it rewards your efforts taken with more flavour.

Perfect? No. However I would have to be some sort of heel to hold the fact that the Brewery that made this also made better beers against it. It is a rewarding sugar shock of complexity. A flawed gem from a great brewery.

Background: Ah memories, despite the fact I picked this up at a bottle shop this still reminds me of good times drinking in Craftheads bar where they had a great amount of Hair of the Dog Beers.  This is the third and final beer I brought back from Japan, and yes it is a USA beer, I can justify it as HOTD beers are like hen’s teeth over here. This was going to be review 900, then I found Hair Of The Dog Matt and that stole that position. As you may guess, I absolutely adore Hair of The Dog Beers. I am not sure if I am becoming biased on their beers or if they are just that darn good. To aid the memories of Japan I drank it while listening to the third FLCL OST Album.

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!

Hair Of The Dog Matt

Hair of The Dog: Matt (USA: American Strong Ale: 12.5%ABV)

(2010 Edition: Drunk 2013)

Visual: Black, a shimmer around the edges that is all that passes for a head.

Nose: Raisins and brandy cream. Plums. Fortified red wine. Stewed apples and apple crumble. Gooseberries.

Body: Silky. Brandy cream. Raisins and port. Tangerine notes. Bourbon. Apples. Slight alcohol spirit feel. Pink grapefruit.

Finish: More brandy cream. Chocolate liquore. Bourbon and accompanying vanilla notes. Light charring. Lightly tart. Pink grapefruit. Treacle. Gin air. Fruitcake.

Conclusion: Recently Brodie’s Elizabethan set the bar high for exactly what a strong ale could be. Then, after Herculean efforts, I manage to get to try this. The legendary Hair Of The Dog Matt. How does it do in the fight?

Well, as you would expect from HOTD it is incredibly complex. Dark fruits and raisins against tart grapefruit and tangerine flavours. It shifts back and forth between the two contrasting elements with ease, all lying upon a chocolate liquore and vanilla bourbon base that is the omnipresent background. The flavours are absolutely delightful.

The texture is silky smooth but the flavours have no problem gripping and seeping in. It is like a high quality liquore. There is a spirit like presence, even with several years ageing under its belt you can feel a small spirit burn. It is the beer’s only flaw. The weight of the beer already happily advertised the abv without needing the alcohol burn, though admittedly very light, shown only in a tingle to the end.

Of the Hair Of The Dog beers I would probably put Adams ahead of it as I feel it balanced weight to smoothness better. This I think may have a slightly better rep due to its rarity rather than it actually being a better beer. Then again, I’m comparing it to one of my three favourite beers ever. That is the only situation where this beer can really be said to fail at anything.

So it may partly have a reputation due to rarity, but mainly because it is amazingly bloody great.

On complexity of flavour this is a winner, it is only that slightly too tingling alcohol that keeps it from perfection. Because it is such a great beer, in such a great style with so many great contenders, I am reaching to find criticisms, minor though they are.

A near perfect mix of sharpness and dark fruit, silky texture. If anything feels a heavier beer than it is for abv. Despite that minor imperfection the utterly sublime range and balance of flavour wins it a place in my heart. Wine notes, stewed apples and brandy cream all come in exchange for that slight burn.

After much back and forth I am unsure of if I should put it in my favourites, as the competition for styles like this is so high. Then again, with fruitcake, apple crumble, citrus tart , bourbon, plum pudding and liquore, frankly that should not matter. Anything that can pull that off is worth drinking.

Sod it, despite the insane level of competition I will call it a favourite. Its been a hell of a nine hundred reviews. Hope you enjoyed them and the beers to come.

Background: 900 drink reviews! Conveniently this little beauty was available in the excellent Craftheads bar in Tokyo to celebrate the event. If anyone has been tracking my notes and my trip write up you may notice this one is slightly out of order, almost as if it was not exactly the 900th review and I just budged it down the line a bit to match the occasion. Cynics.

I nearly didn’t get hold of the beer. I had seen on craftheads website that they had it, and since it is only made every two years, it is from the very hard to get Hair Of The Dog Brewery which I adore, and is one of rate beers top 50 beers , I thought I must try to get it. Unfortunately one day they were closed, the second day I could only quickly drop by and they no longer do take outs on Hair Of The Dog beers. The third day though, sprinting and riding train journeys from after watching a Sumo match in another district of Tokyo, hoping to get to it before it shut, I found it open and ready to sell me beer. Success.

Yes I am a fan of Hair Of The Dog beers and will go to insane lengths to try them, why do you ask?

This beer is apparently made with two Munich malts, two smoked malts, two types of Belgium candy sugar, and aged in Bourbon and Apple Eau de Vie barrels. Or so I just read on ratebeer. I knew not this at the time.

Another Thus Drank Zarathustra. Trying a bit different style this time, so any feedback is welcome on if you prefer it more or less ranty. As always since these take a while to do any help in getting the word out on them is appreciated. Hope you enjoy it.

Hair Of The Dog: Fred (USA: Barley Wine: 10% ABV)

Visual: Dark hazy amber with an absolutely massive apricot and wheat coloured head that is very solid and lasting.

Nose: barley and cinnamon, syrup wheat and a hint of cloves.  Toffee and custard sweetness with a big dose of malt. Orange peel, mixed spices, fresh cream and vanilla. Finally light bitter hops and chives action. An eternally shifting menagerie of scents.

Body:  Sweet fudge, syrup and sherbet fresh. Touch of banana sweets, smooth yet bitter hops. A massive malt back and touch of strawberries in its frothy textured body. Chives, pineapple, custard and apricot with a touch of ginger. As the froth subsides the body smoothes massively.

Finish: Light bitter hops, toffee and greenery. Some light and slightly sweet liquorice. Grapefruit, bitter and oak. The bitterness grows over time. Hops and dry ginger.

Conclusion: Is there anything they didn’t manage to cram into this beer? A massive nose of mercurial shifting nature and a body that seems to want to encompass the entire flavour range a golden coloured beer could ever cover.

Calls effortlessly to Belgium strong ale, American IPAs, British blond ales and sweet barley wines and more in its influences. A masterful balancing act of all these without ever feeling haphazard or cluttered.

This really shown a true grasp of the craft, bringing in so many strong and seemingly contradictory elements with such panache and smoothing them together.

It would feel nigh Imperial IPA in its hops style if it was not for the smoothing and rich sweetness that counterbalances in. It’s oh so relaxing, with the alcohol subtly soothing you from under the flavour, and it enthrals with so much flavour for a long nights sipping. A fine counter balance to the claim that high alcohol beers would promote binge drinking, for you would never want to rush this.

Hair of the Dog again shows exactly what they can bring to the table.

Hair Of The Dog: Doggie Claws (USA: Barley Wine: 11% ABV)

Bottled 2009 Drunk 2010

Visual: Dark cherry red/fruitcake coloured with a fizzy brown red head of short life, however the head could be recalled easily on a quick swirl.

Nose: Sweet cherries, shortbread and dry hops. Sour fruits, grapefruit and elderberry. Sour raspberries.

Body: Malt, raspberry syrup front and legendary smoothness. Custard creams, toffee fruitcake and grapefruit. More fruit mix with gooseberries, raisins and apricot. Slightly milky near the end, milk chocolate red cherry and raspberry.

Finish: Dry but with syrup sweetness- Golden syrup? Hops and grapefruit, slight charring and treacle. Blackcherry, wheat and bitter chocolate.

Conclusion: An intricate barley wine from Hair of the Dog, smooth as silk and layered with flavour. It’s a slow burn beast that takes a lot of time to crack open and find its intricacies.

There’s a huge range of flavour, though not every element works perfectly. For me the usually welcome grapefruit notes seem somewhat out of place and clash with the rest of the body.  There is still a distinct joy in dissecting the beer and finding what lies within however.

The most surprising element is how lacking in force it is for a Barley Wine, going more towards an elegance and smoothness I’m starting to associate with the Hair of The Dog style.  So it’s a bit of a contrary wee beast, playing styles against each other which works some times but not others.

Wonderfully interesting for all I’ve said about it, it just never seems to stop roaming long enough to find a niche for itself. One for rambling explorations of the new territory it lays.

Hair Of The Dog: Adam (USA: Traditional Ale: 10% ABV)
(Batch 69: Bottled 2008: Drank 2010)

Visual: Black silk with a sturdy frothy mocha brown head that leaves trails as it slowly diminishes.

Nose: Figs, malt, dark chocolate. Coffee, prunes, rich cream. Crushed mixed spices – Christmassy in style. Plum pudding, heavy smooth and rich. Mulled wine.

Body: Cherries, figs, smooth cream, hot chocolate of the finest type, truffles, roasted nuts. Bitter undertones round out the underside of the sweet main body. Frothy like whipped cream in coffee. Tiny syrup but only the barest hint at the back. Very light texture – a beer of aero bubbles.

Finish: Mocha coffee, bitter chocolate and blackcherry. Smooth and creamy again Almonds.

Conclusion: Crazy smooth like a beer mix of aero chocolate and fine frothy coffee, this beer has it all. Wonderful texture, rich fruit, chocolate and coffee flavours with enough bite from the fig like elements to tease an unexpected gasp from you.

This really is a beer that makes you go “wow!” and well worth the hard search to find.

The high alcohol is nigh completely hidden in the smooth complex body. This rates up with Aventinus Eisbock, Westvletern 12, Beer Geek Brunch Weasel and Good King Henry Special Reserve as on of the greatest beers I have ever tasted – So easy to drink it should be a drink for a social night out, but so complex it would be a crime to do anything but take your time. Not as complex or heavy as Westvletern but insanely smooth which more than makes up for it.

Excellence in a glass.

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