It was a long work day, so I'm rewarded myself with one of my more expensive and exotic beers waiting on hand... one of the many specialty brews from Rogue Brewery. Rogue Brewery has always been an interesting brewery to me because it started right here in Southern Oregon (Ashland, to be precise) but has since grown up and moved to Newport. with an offshoot in Portland. In a market saturated by IPAs, Rogue stands out through it's signature Rogue Dead Guy, a Maibock style ale, and a myriad of left field winners to challenge beer drinkers looking for something different.
If you every get the chance, visit either the Newport or Portland brewery and pub house and enjoy the amazing food (Kobe Bleu Ball sliders will blow your mind), intimidating beer menu, and quirky character they each bring. This is a beer blog, so I won't go into detail, but if you enjoy fine spirits and you haven't tried their Rogue Spirits line of whiskey, gin, and rum you are missing out on one of the finest boutique hard alcohol experiences I've found for a reasonable price.
All this brings us to the Chatoe Rogue First Growth Creek Ale...
Although beer, like art, should be able to stand on it's own merit without context, the story behind the First Growth Creek Ale is too good to pass over. Part of Rogue Brewing's GYO (Grow Your Own) series, this beer is brewed using Rogue's own hops and barley (they proudly list the eight ingredients used to make the ale as Wheat, Rogue Barley from their Dare and Risk malts, Rogue Hopyard Revolution hops, Montmorency cherries, Pacman and Belgian yeast, and free range coastal water). And yes... that's cherries in the list of ingredients.
Chatoe Rogue First Growth Creek Ale poured into the glass a cloudy red-brown with a small but creamy head that slowly pulled away to reveal a wine-like separation where the beer met the edge of the glass. The nose was pleasant and smelled like a subtly smoked lambic. Although not too dark in color, the beer was thick enough that the bubbles seemed to be rising to the top in slow motion.
The first impression in the mouth certainly mirrored the lambic nose, momentarily slightly sour and only subtly hopped. Left to sit for a few seconds, the beer seemed to almost expand and foam in my mouth through chemical reaction. It wasn't until I swallowed that a finely balanced, medium bodied malt ale came through, very refreshing and leaving just a hint of cherry at the end with without sweetness, the bitterness of the hops, or the smokiness of the malts lingering.
I'm not a fan of most fruit enhanced beer, but I put this in a different category... this ale isn't about being a cherry ale, it's about being a great malty ale with cherry accentuating it's best features. This is one of those beers (like several of theirs, including the Rogue Chipotle Ale and Rogue Chocolate Stout) that are too quirky and rich to be consumed regularly but are the beer drinker's equivalent of ambrosia when consumed only a few times a year. Find a bottle, pour, and get ready to slide into the weekend...