Day 113: The Rogue Ale Experiment

originally published April 22, 2012

Today’s article is brought to you by the good people at the Rogue brewery. Today, as I write this, I am sampling their “Voodoo Doughnut” product, a bacon maple ale.

That’s right, I like a little bacon flavor in my beer. Those of you who read my love letter to bacon a couple weeks back will not be surprised by this. Unless you were previously unaware that such a beer exists.

Yes, it tastes smoky, like delicious, wonderful bacon. And yes, there’s a maple aroma that dances with my nose hairs, making me giggle like a tickled child, though not quite to the point of self-urination (that will come later, after a few more bottles).

Ms. Wiki poured me another bland, uninteresting beer as today’s selection. As I’ve already written about one of those recently, I chose to nudge my way through her category of American beers, and suddenly recalled that haunting evening in which I tried to sample every beer from the impressive collection produced by the Rogue Ale Company.

Rogue unleashed their glory on the world from their home base in Ashland, Oregon, in 1988. I’d been told their brews were beyond exquisite, and felt I should try to branch away from my then-current drinking trend of shot-gunning peach schnapps until I went blind.

The first I sampled was their Chocolate Stout. The bottle features a likeable-looking woman on the front, raising a stein as if to say, “Hey there! This shit has chocolate in it! It will help you forget your troubles and make you feel more attractive.”

Mystery Bottle-Lady was right.

Stout has a tendency to burst past the lips like it owns the place, elbowing a high dose of flavor to every corner of one’s mouth, lest any taste buds remain ignorant of its presence. This stout was bold, yes, but the after taste was indeed chocolaty. Not like that waxy chocolate that passes for dollar-store Easter candy either. This was the kind of chocolate that makes a Belgian pause and say, “Oh.”

And the kick from this stout didn’t hurt either. I’d have to pace myself.

Gabby, my waitress, didn’t think I’d be able to get through Rogue’s collection. “They have, like, 35 varieties,” she told me.

“How many do you have in stock?” I asked.

“Probably about fifteen.”

“Bring me a Dead Guy,” I winked. Gabby dug me. Not in that way – I was married, and she was… well, I don’t really know her situation. But she was playing along with my experiment, that was all that mattered.

Gabby brought me a Dead Guy Ale, a malty German-style maibock. By the time I’d drained half of it, that gentle fluffy buzz of self-satisfaction was creeping in. I was the coolest guy in the bar, trying an experiment that had never previously been done. Probably. I didn’t care, I needed another drink.

I looked around and signaled to Gabby that I was ready to keep going.

It was time for something a little sweeter, something that would brighten my palate. I wasn’t letting Gabby take any of my empties off the table (they were now trophies), and I wanted a companion for the Chocolate Stout lady. I sampled the Somer Orange Honey Ale, which wasn’t quite as sweet as I had expected. The finish was nice. It tasted like a warm sunny day. Unfortunately, I’d been drinking in a windowless bar for quite some time, and have no recollection if it was sunny outside, or even daytime.

The beer was really kicking in now. These 22-ounce bottles don’t mess around. They get to the point and they hammer it home with a velvet mallet. I was drumming on my table, a nasty habit I always seem to fall into when I start getting beer-happy.

Gabby brought me a Independence Hop next. This was another lighter beer, but without the fruity undertones. More my style. Except the guy on the bottle was looking at me in a funny way, I didn’t like it. I turned the bottle slightly, but then noticed his creepy gaze was now trained on the friendly-looking Chocolate Stout Lady. She deserves better than that. I finished this one in a hurry and waved Gabby down.

“Give me something that will make me happy to be alive!” I cried, probably too loudly. People at other tables were looking, probably trying to bask in my enthusiasm.

Gabby brought me a bottle of Rogue’s Chipotle Ale. This one had a kick to it, a bit of spice underneath a tasty golden ale. And I liked the look of the guy on the bottle. His mustache reminded me of Sam Elliott’s, so I named him Sam.

“Check this out, Sam,” I said, then perfectly mimicked a Neil Peart fill in a Rush song. People were looking at me again, probably impressed with my prowess. I was drunk, sure, but that’s when my gifts really emerge.

I didn’t quite finish the Chipotle – I wanted Sam to stick around for a bit.

Gabby plunked a Juniper Pale Ale on my table next. I cheered – Sam was on this bottle too, albeit with a goatee and an ax. This beer had a somewhat sweet and spicy aftertaste, though at this point ‘taste’ was becoming harder and harder to discern. I was piling pretzels in my mouth and trying desperately not to spit out crumbs as I told Mustache-Sam about a great floor-hockey game I played once in the eighth grade.

Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout came out next, and this worried me. Drunk people and oatmeal are probably a bad mix. But Sam was there on the bottle again, wearing a fancy befeathered hat.

“Olay!” I yelled for no reason, and downed the bottle. My stool was noticeably more wobbly, and the floor was taunting me now. I gave it the finger for about sixty seconds, then jumped when I noticed Gabby standing beside me.

“I can’t serve you anymore.”

“Gabby! The big experiment! I’m almost there!”

“You’re not almost there, you’re drunk. And it’s only 8:30. Why didn’t you drink slower?”

“One more, Gabby. Please. Do it for us. Do it for Sam!”

She shook her head and walked away, but I could tell she would give in. We have something special, Gabby and I. If I hadn’t been married, and she hadn’t been whatever she was, I was certain it would have worked out between us.

I was in the midst of trying to see how long I could hold a pretzel between my upper lip and my nose when Gabby brought me a Brutal IPA, a citrusy India Pale Ale. There was Sam on the front again, dressed in red. I realized that they were all Sam. Everyone was Sam, even those bottle-women who didn’t look anything like him.

Except for that jerk on the Independence Hop bottle. Fuck that guy. He’s no Sam, just some guy with a creepy look and a non-fruit, non-chocolate plain old beer. I hurled the bottle across the bar in disgust, and within minutes, a crowd had descended upon me, no doubt to cheer me on for defeating the evil non-Sam guy. Unfortunately, one of my adoring public was a bit too enthusiastic, and accidentally hit me on the back of the head with something really hard.

That’s all I remember from that night. I cannot heap enough praise upon the good people at Rogue, however, and I have to say, their bacon maple ale is nothing short of exquisite.

I may stop at one this time, though.

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