Interview: Hair of the Dog founder Alan Sprints

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Craft Beer Portland


What are your favorite aspects of beer-pairing dinners, and what do you think are the keys to their success?

I’ve always liked the educational aspect of a beer-pairing dinner. Sometimes people have preconceived notions of what you should pair with a particular type of food or particular type of beer. The wine industry kind of set up those kind of guidelines, where you drink red wine with meat and white wine with fish, so it’s nice to not have those kind of rules, and show people that you can have a dark beer like Adam with chocolate cake for dessert, or you can have it with baked oysters for an appetizer. There are many ways to enjoy the beers, and everyone has their own idea of how they like it, so it’s nice to have that kind of serendipity and discovery that people are like, “Wow, this beer tastes great with this. I didn’t realize it would.”

How did this collaboration come about and what was the process like with Andre Guerrero?

It’s been great working with Andre. I haven’t done any dinners in Los Angeles for quite some time, and I was coming to visit family and friends and wanted to do something here in L.A. We’ve been hearing real positive things in Portland about the beer scene in Los Angeles, new breweries opening up and more beer bars that specialize in unique beers are opening, and it always seemed like for some reason, that scene had skipped over Los Angeles, from San Diego to Santa Barbara, and it’s nice to see that happening here. So it’s nice to be a part of that scene. Hopefully we’ll be able to do more in the future.

What are some of your most satisfying moments in working with craft beer?

Well, I really enjoy when people use my beers to celebrate special occasions, so when somebody says that they opened a bottle of my beer at a birth, or a wedding, or just, “I got a promotion at my work and I wanted to celebrate,” it’s nice that people think about my beers when they want to have a good time.

Is there a brewery or beer that you wish you could get in Portland but can’t on a regular basis?

Yeah, I don’t know if I’m the right one to ask. I’ve had so many beers all these years that I don’t go to the lengths I used to, to get beer. I’ve got more beer than I could ever drink. There was a time that I would travel around the world to visit a brewery, and I’m not so enthusiastic about doing that anymore. So I like to tell people that my favorite beer is the next one I’m going to have.

Who are some other people in the craft beer community that you look to for advice, guidance or inspiration?

We’re fortunate that the craft brewing industry is very giving and sharing, I’ve got some great friends that own or work at other breweries, and they’re all very free about exchanging information. We’ve developed some nice relationships with bar owners, restaurateurs, even distributors. Kevin [Kansy], my distributor here in Los Angeles, was really instrumental in having dinner here. I haven’t been in Los Angeles for quite some time, and I don’t really know who’s supporting the craft beer industry, so Kevin was really nice to be able to hook me up with Andre and come to a place where they really respect beer.

Finally, what will it take for you to consider your work with Hair of the Dog successful, if you don’t already?

I already feel like more of a success than I could ever be. Going to Belgium, brewing beer in Belgium was kind of full circle for me. As a teenager, the first beers that I was hypnotized by were the Belgian beers. As a young beer drinker those are the ones that really captured my imagination. Going to Belgium was always a goal, and so I went there many years ago and I’ve been able to visit several times. The fact that I was able to brew beer in Belgium was a real satisfying moment for me.

I know I said finally, but I can’t help but wonder: since you went to culinary school, in what ways do you feel that helped shape you as a brewer?

I like to think that the perception of flavor, the kind of memory index that you have of what things taste like and what flavors remind you of is something that needs to be developed, and I think culinary school helped me a little bit to have that index of flavors in my mind so I could think about pairing food and beer, or creating a beer and what kind of flavors I wanted in that. That’s been a real positive.

Address: 61 SE Water Avenue, Portland, OR 97214

Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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