As I contemplate the purchase of a sun light and/or an exercise regimen to alleviate the general funk that seems to take hold as the seasons change, I have no less than three different, small memorials sitting on the desk in front of me: a picture of a young boy dancing in sunlight, an empty mug, and a beer. The one I am the most willing to tell you about (sober) is Hair of the Dog's Adam, the first beer by Alan Sprints and Hair of the Dog - a hearty old world ale, brewed in memory of his friend Adam Kerchival.
The word small may not be the best descriptor for a memorial. Perhaps it implies that the person, the place, the thing, and at worst, the very memory, might be small as well. Not small in stature, as in a memorial for a small person or a tiny town that once existed, but small in significance. Small in the grand scheme of things. And while the size of the personal shrines in front of me at this moment might pale in comparison to the giant towers and statues we see in our capitals and outside our stadiums, nothing about them ranks as small by any measure that matters.
Small would most certainly be a poor choice of words to describe Hair of Dog's Adam. With a well hidden 10% ABV and loaded with amazingly rich flavors of wood, leather, chocolate, and dark fruit, this beer is anything but small. Brewed as a re-creation of the historic style, Adambier, once brewed in Dortmunder, Germany, the beer is deliciously malty and has a faint smoke to it, calling back to a time when malt was generally darker and less refined, often carrying some of the smoke from the drying kilns into the brewing process.
To my right, the half empty glass of Adam warms to room temperature. To my left, the picture of the dancing boy I mentioned earlier peaks out from behind my laptop. It's my brother John, around 8 years old, dancing outside the house the afternoon of my senior prom. I'm somewhere off camera in a rented tuxedo with a lovely young lady waiting for my brothers to stop snapping shots of one another and to give the camera back to Mom so she could take what at the time were thought to be the important photos.
He died suddenly when he was 12, and from the hundred or so photos on display on poster boards and in frames at the services that followed, I kept this one photo. It was and has been the most perfect photo since the moment I saw it during those strange, empty boat, lost at sea days that led up to the funeral.
It serves as much as a memorial to a younger brother I haven't seen in over 15 years (because at this point that idea feels so sickeningly abstract), as it does to the time in my life when I thought I was the center of the universe – or least in near absolute control. It serves as a reminder to time when I thought the racing thoughts of my mind served some purpose, as if the constant analysis of possibilities that could branch out from any given moment somehow kept bad things from happening.
The photo reminds me of a time when I honestly believed that if I thought of every possible outcome - the strange ones, the fantastic ones, and especially the bad ones, that those things would never happen. And so I let my mind constantly shatter outward, convinced the web of thoughts added some layer of protection. The photo reminds me that that was obviously not the case.
Next to the photo is a Philadelphia Eagles coffee mug, and like my glass of Adam, it sits empty. Unlike my glass of Adam, which I emptied moments ago, the Eagles mug has been empty for about a year and a half. I retired it from regular service on the shelves of my kitchen cabinet to my desk when it developed a small chip after a rough ride in the dishwasher. The mug belonged to my step-father, Jack, who died suddenly about a year and half after my brother – they both had a congenital heart condition.
Now, maybe all this may sound like an endless pit a despair, and perhaps that's what the mug, or maybe this whole thing your reading is memorializing. It could be that the mug is itself a small pit of despair - it does currently sit on top of my beer receipts from this year – so that would be fitting. Or ironic, maybe?
But beyond reminding me of a great man with a great mustache that was a big part of the first twenty or so years of my life, the mug serves as a reminder of that brief time when, while I no longer thought I was the center of anything, I did have this eerie suspicion that I had entered into some sort of agreement with the universe. The universe had shown me its worst with the passing of my brother. I took it as a wake up call. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Stop being sad over nothing. Drink a beer. Smile.
I understood the agreement to be that if I did those things, that everything was going to be okay. I was going to get my act together, graduate college, slowly find the new version of me that was left over after the all the self loathing and guilt associated with something terrible happening when you think you are the one in control of it all. And then things would be good. Eventually, the family would be closer than ever. We just needed time.
And then I got the call. It was the Universe. The agreement was off. Jack was dead. That time you thought you had? Well, that time is up. Don't calm down.
It wasn't the Universe. It was Mom. Jack had died that morning. I said to my Mom, whose husband had just died, “Sit tight, I'll be right there.”
What kind of self-centered asshole says sit tight at that moment?
Two thumbs, gouging my own eyes out.
Adam, Hair of the Dog Brewing (BAR 4.56, Style+ 120)
Appearance = 4.25/5
Dark brown, like a cola, a thin layer of tan head that recedes to a ring along the glass.
Smell = 4.5/5
Sugary, dark fruit, more fig than raisins, some molasses along with hints of leather and chocolate and roasted malt. The booze is almost more felt in the nostrils than actually in the aroma itself, but I suppose it is faintly there.
Taste = 5/5
The taste is more roasted malt, wood, and leather than the sugary dark fruit that seemed more dominant in the nose. Some cherry notes that I didn't detect in the nose. The sweetness is most present in the finish and yet it still manages to finish somewhat dry with some hints of smoke.
Feel = 4.75/5
Low carb but still faintly prickly on the lips. Slick feel overall and surprisingly not sticky based on initial impressions from the aroma. The Finish is wonderful – semi-sweet, dry, and a that hint of smoke (normally not a fan of smoke flavors, so this is pretty darn faint).
Overall = 4.75/5
This has some of the best qualities of a delicious imperial stout without being overpowering. As it warms the booze starts to shine through and the beer takes on nice digestif/desert quality. It is one of the few beers I managed to obtain back in the early Beer On My Shirt days that, at the time, surprised me by living up to the hype and by presenting flavors that were totally new to my palette. It is also one of the few beers from those early days that I continue to find just as impressive each time I have it.
Follow J.R. Shirt on Twitter and Untappd @beeronmyshirt. He is usually more upbeat. Also, listen to the Drinking With Shirt Podcast here at BeerGraphs or on iTunes.