I’ll be the first to profess that Rogue hasn’t always been my favoritest of breweries. Granted, I don’t exactly play favorites in the artisanal beer world nor do I want to. Why? All it would serve is to limit my choices instead of expanding them. And so it was with eager arms I embraced the latest and greatest of beer tasting events at Hurricane Grille & Wings of Vero Beach, FL. The star for a day? Rogue Brewing out of Newport, Oregon.
Rogue has quite the accomplished pedigree with more than their fair share of medals to show for it. Most recently Rogue has expanded their craft portfolio to include a limited range of small batch spirits: Dark Rum, Dead Guy Whiskey, White Rum, Hazelnut Spice Rum, Pink Gin, and Spruce Gin. I have yet to taste any of them but will do so with an open mind and curious palate. Yay-sayers and nay-sayers are not me; my palate alone shall speak for my taste of view.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about the brewery side of Rogue. With a tagline the likes of “Rogue Nation – Dare. Risk. Dream.” one would expect a brewing pedigree of diverse proportions…they would be right. Besides a solid year-round lineup, Rogue pushes the envelope with big beers and a marketing ethos which can be somewhat commercial if not successful. Rereleasing old brands under new labels, changing package designs, and other such tricks of the marketing world have been a prickly point of contention between Rogue and the beer geeks and geekettes who drink them. I tend to have more relaxed reservations but not so that Wednesday night of May 19th, 2010 at Hurricanes.
Wednesday night there was nary a bad Rogue brew in sight. In fact, the least favorite and most ridiculed Juniper Pale Ale I found to be tastefully intricate and artfully floral. That’s alright; more for me. To borrow another brewery’s tagline, I tend to not float the mainstream anyway. Besides the Juniper Pale Ale, there was also the quintessential Dead Guy Ale along with the American Amber Ale, Hazelnut Brown Nectar, and St. Rogue Red Ale.
This particular tasting was executed with even more purpose and organization than previously. Howard and staff along with Tim and Ron of JJTaylor took us to the next level of beer connoisseurship. And why not. I know firsthand that my diverse posse of beer peeps is ready and raring. All attendees received an informational packet they got to keep which consisted of five individual pages chock full of in-depth fun-filled details exploring each of the five individual Rogue beers being tasted. Adding to the overall experience, the beers were smartly tasted in order of least complex to most complex. A two hour casual affair, the patrons were given ample time inbetween each beer to smell, sup, savor, and discuss their thoughts on the beers. While I weaved amongst the tables myself inbetween relaxing with my personal posse of Rob, Cathie, Sam, Randy, Harry, Rebecca, Gary, and many more ohmy, the air was abuzz with excitement while warm fuzzies filled my being.
More packed for this tasting than all previous tastings to date, the festivities stretched from the inside out to their wonderfully tiki-inspired deck. Hurricanes of Vero Beach may be in the old Publix plaza off 15th and US Highway 1, but when nestled in the back where palm trees surround and fronds flutter, the blaring of horns melt away while tropical fancies happily run amuck. Being so superbly attended, I was most pleased to see old favorites along with a generous helping of faces that were new to the Hurricanes beer tasting experience. All in all, a good 2/3 if not more of all peeps from 7pm-9pm and beyond were there to taste Rogue beers, snarf finger-licking food and have a grand ol’ time.
Hurricane’s may sport a culinary portfolio that expands beyond wings, but wings are my soft spot (one of many actually but I digress). There is still a long road ahead of me before I taste my way through at least the first three categories with maybe a bit of dabbling in the fourth and fifth categories. As much as my palate and tongue could previously handle alarm-sounding spicy food of cosmic proportions…not so much anymore. While I don’t mind a bit of kick with my flavor, the key there is “with flavor.” That being said, I left my wing savoring destiny up to the ever wonderful and always lovely Nicole. Supposedly the latter categories aren’t as hot as they used to be, but I’m a wuss and my tongue would hate me for hours afterwards so trained is it to be sensitive to all things.
Not too long after planning my order, Nicole laid their tantalizingly steamy drumsticks and wings before my hungry eyes. The flavor? Hot Teriyaki. With a generous sprinkling of whole sesame seeds and a full pint of Rogue Juniper Pale Ale, I was ready and raring. But first a taste of the pale ale. Mm… A mild brew indeed she nevertheless sports crisp flavors of white crackers, bread crust, green grass blades, and finishes with gentle juniper notes which linger in my breath after each taste. A quaffer of sessionable disposition to be sure, her easygoing palate with flavor was a perfect match for the sweet and spicy Hot Teriyaki wings. The meat was tender and succulent as always, and it didn’t take long for a graveyard of bones to be all that remained. Well, that and sticky fingers of happiness, but I digress.
Ironically it seems that no matter how early I plan my arrival, Cathie and Rob plan theirs earlier. The Rogue tasting was no different and it was a heartwarming moment as I stepped inside (after snapping a few pics) to see them happily planted at the bar whilst pulling out a stool for yours truly. Don’t mind if I do. Being early allows time to settle in with a lazy pint and tasty wings which as evidenced above is exactly what I did. As beer-minded patrons trickled then flowed in, my seat was eventually abandoned for the pleasure of picture taking and socializing.
I love people. Like real beer, real people are all that more enriching because of their fascinating diversity and personality and even more so when it comes to good beer which indubitably attracts good people. When flavor is savored, times cherished, people celebrated, responsibility understood, and community embraced, there is no greater proof positive that real beer is the good life. I don’t know about anybody else, but that good life is now and I’m neck deep in it with no desire to be anywhere else.
And now back to our regular scheduled programming…
Howard and his staff along with the help of Tim and Ron were gracious hosts with each table receiving first class service under their care. Amongst endless smiles, resounding chatter, and joyous laughter, a fun-filled two hours passed far sooner than was anticipated but not before a St. Rogue Red Ale was supped in good measure. A smashing success, the Rogue Nation was surely expanded, but the night wasn’t over yet. Enter the piece-de-la-resistance: two bottles of Dogfish Head World Wide Stout, one vintage 2008 and one vintage 2009.
With a stack of taster cups on the ready, Nicole graciously procured the two bottles which had arrived earlier along with my person. Placing the two vintages side-by-side, I poured each into separate cups which were then carefully distributed amongst as many of my beer appreciating peeps as possible for a mini lateral tasting of truly epic proportions. I had no idea what to expect having only tasted the two different years fresh when they were newly released during Christmas’ past. Yes, this malty beauty is a Dogfish Head holiday seasonal, and a good girl I have been. A taste… Wow! Night and day both in appearance and taste! Thankfully my brief ascension into beertopia is reassured by the presence of more 2008 bottles safely tucked away along with more 2009 bottles. For all my aspiring beer cellars out there, hold onto your 2008 and especially the 2009 which is still rather young. They are just starting to blossom in terms of time-tasted maturation.
Not long after the tasters of World Wide Stout were tenderly savored, that fateful last call did knell and one last round of Rogue and other assorted craft beers flowed. It was only as the last of my fellow stragglers trickled outside was I ready to accept the evening’s conclusion. A big HUG and Thank You everyone for once more adding to my treasure trove of precious beery memories. You rock!
(an original written work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)