I know I've stretched out the "Dark Lord Day Aftermath" series of posts, but there was a lot to absorb (such as my drowned liver) that weekend, and I've been ill all week. Bear with me. This is one of the last DLD related posts. Anyway, Shaun and I finished the last day of his weekend in town by, of course, getting some beers! After stopping at two of Chicago's best beer bars during the day/evening, namely, The Twisted Spoke and Hop Leaf, Shaun and I headed home. He had a flight to Seattle the next day, back to the Great Northwest and its outstanding cadre of breweries. Before turning in, it was a perfect time to pop open one of these fine Northwest brews that Shaun had sent me earlier, Hair of the Dog Brewery's Michael, styled as a Flanders Red Ale.
I had been waiting to open this one for a while. Someone had actually brought a bottle of Micheal to DLD and it rested on one of the tasting tables while we were there. Shaun pointed it out to me. I nixed the idea of trying it there since I had the bottle at home. This highly acclaimed beer deserved sampling in an appropriate format with a relatively unadulterated palate. Plus, my interest in sours had never been stronger than DLD weekend after the Jolly Pumpkin I blogged about earlier had opened my biased eyes to the genre two days prior. I had become more of an equal opportunity drinker. I pulled out a couple of my unlabeled snifter glasses, uncapped the Michael, and poured it in to the glasses in equal portions.
Of course, Shaun wrote about this unique brew back in January. Like the HOD Fred, this is a bottle conditioned ale that's constantly evolving until opened. Michael is red-amber in color. It pours a modest head, reflecting strong but not out of control carbonation. The nose reveals sour notes, fruits, a hint of spice, and also a bit of hops. At first sip, one gets the fizzy mouthfeel and the tang of the sour elements. I agree with Shaun that the beer really makes the taster take notice and think about his brew. It is a great palate cleanser. Its fresh, sharp taste dominates and rolls off the palate, kind of like a crisp ginger ale. It is anchored in a firm layer of malt that gives it backbone, separates it from a soda, and masks the roughly 6% alcohol. The drinker is left refreshed and, palate cleansed, anticipating the next sip. The finish is very satisfying and effervescent. One can almost feel it still bubbling on the tongue after the last sip is gone. This is an accomplished brew that is great on its own, particularly after dinner, and it might accompany shellfish such as mussels very well. I can't imagine that this beer's Flemish distant cousins have not been accompanied by a few plates of steaming mussels.
PROS: Here's another sour for me to drink. I'm clearly a convert!
CONS: Now I have to go buy a grill so that I can do those mussels justice.
VERDICT: I'm on my way to Target as soon as I call ahead to have them put a Weber on hold for me. Lightly chill a couple of Michaels while I'm gone! Oh yeah. I have to get more in Portland.
* * * * stars. Pushes boundaries for what can be achieved with beer.