The Hop Brief: Hair of the Dog Blue Dot Double IPA
Enjoyed on 3/7/2011
Brewery: Hair of the Dog Brewing Co.
Location: Portland, OR
Beer: Blue Dot Double India Pale Ale (Winter)
Presentation: 22 oz. Brown Glass Bottle, Capped.
Style: American Style Double India Pale Ale
Malt: Organic Pilsner, Rye
Blue Dot is named after our planet: we are only a pale blue dot in this universe. A Double India Pale Ale made with Organic Pilsner, Rye malt and a combination of intense northwest hop varieties.
Beer Advocate: A- (4.12)
Rate Beer: 99 (3.81)
Alan Sprints of HoD is a chef. It’s not uncommon to see him in the kitchen when you visit their new (and amazing) tasting room. He is also a master brewer – one of the best on this great blue dot we call Earth if you ask me. When he creates a recipe, be it for a hearty meal or a complex brew, he puts years of experience and know-how (and heart) into it. In the mighty Northwest, nothing moves us quite like an IPA. Alan isn’t particularly known for profundity in alpha usage, but he is a legend with malt. Let’s see what balance he can bring to the most hoppy of styles.
Blue Dot flows from its glass chamber and fills my tulip with a muddy straw-colored liquid. When held to the light it glows a cloudy, translucent pale orange. If I didn’t know better I’d think this a Belgian Wit before me.
The head is very minimal and stark white. Carbonation bubbles can be seen rising but, overall, the effervescence is minimal. The crown completely dissipates and the lacing is very minimal.
My initial reflections on the scent are of an Earthiness and a graininess. I sometimes think that I’m hyper-sensitive to pilsner malt. It’s always obvious to me when it is used. There is a slight spiciness in the nose but I wouldn’t have assumed that it came from rye had I not known it was a part of the grain bill.
A second waft brings thoughts of a tropical forest. Bitter citrus and pineapple are most prevalent, but a sappy, resinous, pine-like greenness cannot be overlooked. It’s somewhat floral as well. “Orange blossoms” seems to be most appropriate, killing two birds with one stone.
Blue Dot slips gracefully across my tongue and goes down silky smooth. The carbonation, though pretty minimal here, plays in tune with the alcohol to bring a mild sting to the tongue and rear corners of the mouth. The bitterness is so intense that it’s almost corrosive, which is more impressive than detrimental.
Maybe it’s the spicy rye. Who knows what it is exactly, but it really stings, though mostly after the swallow. Still, I kind of like it. It’s similar to the effect that ginger has on the mouth, which I love.
First and foremost, this beer is a bitter bomb. At 7% abv and with such subtle grains employed, the 80 IBUs are mightily magnified. Once you’re able to reanimate your imploded face, the strongest palates amongst us may be able to detect the citrus and graininess that was prefaced in the nose.
Grapefruit juice and bitter orange peel are all over this one. What mild pilsen character climbs through can claim a doughy, biscuity essence. The rye is somewhat challenging to segregate due to the huge hop profile. One must ask whom imparts the huge spice element. I guess it’s huge enough to award to both parties.
[I feel I must offer a disproportionately high mark for the malt flavor, mostly due to its uniqueness. Is this beer balanced in the traditional way? Hell no! But…how could I not respect innovation and against-the-grain…ed…ness… Puntastic!]
The aftertaste is very dry with bitterness but by no means one-dimensional. An exhale stirs up pleasant thoughts of freshly baked rolls. A peppery heat can most likely be attributed to the rye malt and the alcohol. Spicy hop bitterness only further asserts the notion.
It’s quite clear that this brew was formulated deliberately to excite the spiciest amongst us. If I were in the business of pairing beer with food I would never miss an opportunity to place this beside a warm plate of spicy something-or-other with peppercorns. Sorry, I’m no chef.
I think Frank Herbert would be proud of what Alan has created with Blue Dot. In his utterly epic sci-fi series Dune, lives, cultures, planets…everything revolves (figuratively) around “the spice”. The Spice Melange. It’s oddly ironic that this beer is named after the planet Earth when such a comparison about a fictional work steeped in interstellar politics can be made. Perhaps this would be the defining beverage of choice on the desert planet Arrakis, of course, where it not so (seemingly…?) bereft of water.
As you see, my nerdiness is vast and covers many more planes than just craft beer. I’ll attempt to stick with just the one in this particular forum. The point to it all is that this beer is spicy as shit. The malts and hops coincide to form a perfect storm and it all whips around so fast that it’s nearly impossible to distinguish the origins on what the tongue perceives. It’s sci-fi beer and it’s delicious.
Color/Head/Retention [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.85
Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.90
Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.92
Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.46
Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.98
Finish/Aftertaste [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.90