Matt is my name, so when I found a beer named after me (it was, wasn’t it?), I knew that I had to try it. And to my delight, it turned out to be an excellent beer. I also like the name of the brewery: Hair of the Dog. If you are not familiar with the idiom, to take the hair of the dog that bit you refers to drinking the same alcohol in the morning of a hangover, that you drank the night before to produce it. It (supposedly) cures the hangover.
Hair of the Dog Brewery is located in Portland, Oregon, the home of a great craft brew culture. It was founded in 1993, and that is all the information that their website is willing to give us, so we will have to just be satisfied with a date and a city. There is, however, one fact that I really like about Hair of the Dog: many of their beers are bottle-conditioned, meaning that live yeast are left in the bottle, so that a form of micro-fermentation continues to occur in the bottle. This not only increases the complexity of the beer, but it also allows the beer to be aged, which can positively affect the aroma and flavor.
Hair of the Dog Matt (12.5% ABV) is a tribute to Matt VandenBerghe and Matt Bonney, two Seattle craft brewers. Here is Hair of the Dog’s description of the beer:
“Matt was inspired by Matt VandenBerghe and Matt Bonney (Bottleworks and Brouwers in Seattle), who personify the spirit and dedication that has helped craft beer become the vibrant industry it is today. This Beer was originally Brewed to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Bottleworks, and will be released every few years from the Brewery. Matt is made with two Munich malts, two Smoked malts and two types of Belgian candy sugar. It is aged in Kentucky Bourbon and Apple Eau de Vie barrels from Clear Creek distilling. Matt is deep and lush with notes of apple, chocolate and smoke. Alcohol: 12.5% by volume.”
If you already know how I feel about added ingredients in beer, then you know that I generally do not like them. This is why the Belgian candy sugar gives me pause. I am also not the greatest fan of beer that is too sweet. However, this is a very highly-rated beer by several experts, so I will approach it as such, and give it the respect of an objective review. Matt is not categorized by the company in any literature that I can find, but I would say that they intend it to be an American strong ale, or a Barleywine. This means that it is top-fermented, warm-fermented, and has a high alcohol content, which it does. Also, the aging in Bourbon and Apple spirits barrels is a great feature. The company does not tell us if this beer is bottle-conditioned.
Everything On Tap Review: Hair of the Dog Matt:
Bottle: This dark-brown, standard 12-ounce bottle sports a lighter-brown, rounded label. The lettering is yellow and white, and the logo is olive drab and yellow, depicting a gentleman bulldog.
Pour: The color is a clear, dark brown, with some amber and ruddy hues in the sunlight. This leads me to believe that this ale is not bottle-conditioned, and also that it may be closer to a stout than a traditional ale. The head, fizzy yet foamy, is a light, dull brown, a bit less than one finger thick (I have big fingers though), and it dissipates quickly, leaving little to no lacing. Again, these are the characteristics of a stout or a barleywine rather than a traditional ale.
Aroma: The aroma is certainly complex, profound, and intriguing. I feel like I am describing a fine wine when I say that the bouquet’s attack contains leather, earth, figs, currants, dates, raisins, smoky bourbon, molasses, maple syrup, oak, and even some toffee. After this initial complexity, sweet malted grains, even caramelized grains, accompany smoke as they waft to the nostrils. On the aromatic finish is a nice smoky bourbon.
Flavor: The attack begins with smoky bourbon, followed immediately by dark fruit like currants and plums, along with vanilla beans. Then enter stage left chocolate and toffee, with hints of caramel and molasses. On the finish, smooth, luscious bourbon and a clear oakiness arrive, with a lick of leather, making this a very complex, delicious ale. It is truly superb.
Mouthfeel: The body is medium to full. The carbonation is especially low. While low carbonation is acceptable in such a dark ale/stout, this level of carbonation is almost non-existent. This is about the only flaw I could find in this beer. The feel is overall very creamy, thick, and smooth — a true winner.
Structure: I cannot imagine a more structured beer. The aromas and flavors are rich, broad, and complex, and the balance is superb. The aging adds to the stability, although I am still not sure if it is bottle-conditioned: if so, this adds greatly to the structure.
Food Pairing: Such bold, complex, rich, profound flavors would do well with like food, so be sure to try this ale with rich French meats and sauces, such as escargot in garlic butter, duck in red-wine reduction sauce, Hollandaise sauce, or ris de veau (sweetbreads). I would also pair this with New Orleans Oysters Rockefeller, rich gumbo, or rich crawfish étouffée.
Overall Rating Out of 5 Possible Beer Mugs: