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New Belgium sour beer symposium and a surprise trip to Hair of the Dog

Fat_TireEarlier this month, I went to Portland to attend an event hosted by New Belgium Brewing. It featured two of its employees talking about their sour beer and barrel program. Lauren Woods Salazar led us through her experience as the sensory evaluator and blender for New Belgium, many facts of which flew right over my head. She is an expert on the chemistry of beer and can immediately tell you where a batch of Fat Tire went wrong. Eric Salazar, also a brewer and blender, translated a lot of what Lauren discussed into concepts I could understand. Combined, they brought a lot of great information and passion to the seminar. They also brought some beer.

The highlight of the symposium was making our own blend of La Folie, the flagship sour in their stable, using casks of beer that they brought along. Each cask of beer represented a specific barrel from their barrel house and it was up to us to blend a sour beer to our own specific tastes. Certain barrels brought more sourness, others more maltiness. In the end I walked away with a tart, mostly pleasant growler of my own blend of New Belgium sour beer, and new knowledge about the process. We currently do not have stock on La Folie, but keep your eyes open as we are always trying to get on some.

For my trip to Portland I caught a ride with a couple friends who own a beer shop in town and accompanied them on beer-related errands throughout the day. One of these involved picking up a keg from Hair of the Dog. When we arrived, we were greeted by owner and brewer, Alan Sprints. He took us into the brewery where we got a look at his impressive cellar, which is filled floor to ceiling with barrels of various brews aging their way to perfection. On our way out we were greeted by 10 Barrel Brewing’s Shawn Kelso, who was stopping in to say hi to Alan. Then Alan made us an offer we couldn’t refuse, “You guys want to try some beer?” The four of us ponied up to the bar and sampled some of Alan's more rare and sought-after barrel-aged brews. He also poured us some Collage, a just-released collaboration with Deschutes Brewing. We have a limited amount of it in stock at 11.79 a bottle, so grab them while they last. Every Hair of The dog beer is so good and complex, it really makes you appreciate the unique approach Alan has to brewing. His two flagship beers are Fred, a golden ale, and Adam, a hearty old ale. Both are always in stock ($4.49/12 oz.).