Deschutes/Hair of the Dog “Collage”

The label said “Best after 4/30/2013.” It was still 2012 when I bought the bottle, plunking down more for 12 ounces than I often pay for 22 or 25. But a collaboration between Deschutes and Hair of the Dog was certainly an occasion, particularly when it involved a barrel-aged blend of four really fine brews. Early reviews were mixed, but they were also well before that “best after” date. Into the below-stairs “cellar” it went, and I’ve done my best to forget about it for a while.

But I just wrapped up the hard work on a translation project, and went to look and see what I might have cellared which was appropriately celebratory. I decided to give the 11.6% ABV “Collage” a try.

It pours dark brown, with some reddish highlights. The little bit of head disappears quickly. Both pinot and bourbon are there in the tart nose. The first sip is heavy on oak and alcohol. Another, bigger sip is even boozier, but more complex. With all of the aging components (“Rye Whiskey, Cognac, Sherry, Pinot Noir, Bourbon, new American Oak, and new Oregon Oak”), and the variety of base beers (The Dissident and The Stoic and Fred and Adam: Oud Bruin, Belgian quad, American strong ale, and old ale, respectively ), it’s hard to tell what’s what, but also not all that important. Everything is there, but the components come and go in waves. The sour in the base and the wine in the barrels lead on the palate, and might be strong, were the alcohol, whiskey and oak not even stronger. The quad seems to bridge things. The result is surprisingly drinkable.

This one started at cellar temp, and has slowly warmed. Perhaps it has smoothed a bit, or perhaps it is just the alcohol. But it has remained a very interesting, very complex drinking experience. It’s always tempting to wonder whether waiting a little longer with an “ager” would have been better. In this case, I think that the delay had been enough to let the various battling flavors reach something of a level, and the sharper edges that remain are both sufficiently representative of their styles and sufficiently transitory to be welcome. There might be an equally delicious state a few months down the line, but this was remarkable enough that I certainly don’t have any regrets about drinking it at this moment.