Sometimes We Just Stay Home and Drink #27: Rogue Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout. Newport, Oregon
Date: June 26 , 2019 —
The Story— Rogue has been a pioneer in American brewing since the late 1980s. It started as a brewpub in Ashland before floods essentially forced them to a newer and more serious location. In the early days of our waitstaff’s beer classes at Washington’s Brickskeller Saloon, Rogue was our go-to beer for several styles. Head brewer John Maier, who still oversees the brews, made a rare public appearance on our stage and spent a far rarer loquacious evening with us. John is funny, honest, and very smart without a trace of arrogance. Our evening with him is one of the memories of those Brickskeller tastings I treasure most.
He won’t want me to say this, but under the right circumstances he’s a heck of a good public voice for Rogue brewing. We’d all agree that he’s an even more gifted brewer, however, and he’s hit a grand slam with this year’s Rolling Thunder. This beer shows that a good brewer can make great and interesting beer with skill and traditional methods without visiting the grocery store down the street to find something new to dump in the kettle.
Rogue churns out so many similar sounding labels– some of them contain redundant beers– that’s it’s a challenge to find the ones you haven’t found before even if you have a computer at hand. The beers are always good and often at near bargain prices. The Rolling Thunder, however, didn’t remind us of any of the Rogues we’d met before.
It’s not hard these days to find whiskey barrel beers and they range from ambers that show a kiss of the wood to off the wall sours–including many that should have stayed on the wall– from barrels that had served as wildlife refuges for a variety of yeasts and bacterial interlopers. One of the earliest uses of barrels, though, and for our money still the best, was in the marriage of a still wet whiskey barrel and a rich dark beer. Many brewers do those beers well, but Rogue stands out even in such good company.
A few days ago when I wrote the draft of this post, this was the best barrel Imperial that we had had all year and maybe ever. Records are made to be broken, though, and their first place standing lasted about a week. Tomorrow we’ll begin featuring a series of the best beers beers we found during a week in San Francisco. We’ll end that series with the extraordinary beer that just barely topped this absolute gem from Rogue.
Rogue has its own cooperage that turns out about a (physical) barrel a day that they use to produce their Rolling Thunder whiskey. We believe Rogue is uniquely capable of producing a beer like this entirely in-house from wood to wonderful.
The Beer– Rich, huge, dark and chocolate malts lead a parade of fruit, caramel and dark flavors. This is a big beer — there’s a big warming booze and a big whiskey barrel marching band featuring vanilla and even a hint of orange, with more dark chocolate serving as the last float in a tumultuous parade. Ellie thought it was super: super thick, super huge, super smooth and super warming.
Value — Excellent. A beer this could that costs little more than a lunch for two at McDonald’s is a very good reason to be thankful we live in a capitalist society. When you’re sipping on this give a thought to the poor wine snob who is drinking a $90 bottle of something that isn’t nearly as satisfying.
Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.
Sometimes we just stay home and drink beer — hundreds of them over the course of the year as we hunt for a new favorite. The searching for the beer of the day never stops, so for a while, there will be fewer travel-oriented posts and just some to-the-point descriptions of beers we’ve enjoyed.
We’re often asked to share our tasting notes on over 33,000 beers; this blog is in answer to those requests. Not all our notes, though. The great beer writer Michael Jackson admirably followed the Thumper Rule, and we’ll try to do the same. (“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”) All the beers we post are from the top half of our ratings and most are from the top quarter. Of greater value, we think, are the stories behind the beers, and we try to give you enough about the brewery, the style and the places to find great beer to help you on your own beer journeys. At CulturAle Press we try to write books and publish posts that will help you “Drink Well and Travel Safely.”