Nothing can beat celebrating the Fourth of July with great food and friends, unless you spend it surrounded by craft beer.
On my July 4th adventures this year I finally made my way down to Newport, Ore. to tour and taste the beers and see the beards of Rogue Brewing’s Brewers on the Bay.
I have been drinking the beautiful .22 oz bottles from Rogue for a while and have been entranced by their printed-on labels with unique caricatures as well as the equally unique tasting beers. In life I always like to know “why?” and “how?” and when I started getting interested in craft beer many of my questions were answered by going on tours, seeing exactly where the beer I drink comes from and how it is made. What could be better than going on a brewery tour and then drinking on site? Especially when you are in Oregon…and on the beach.
As soon as my friend Sydney and I pulled up into the brewery the excitement could not be contained. We perused the grounds and purchased .22s before the tour (I had the Chocolate Stout- a delicious dark beer that is a treat any time of day) and we saw all the kooky flavors of beer, spirits and sodas that Rouge makes and is for sale in the gift shop. The timing was perfect to start our tour as we had just finished our beers and the buzz was fueling our excitement to look at brewing equipment! At least I was pumped to see brewing equipment. The tour started in what is called The Wood Room where Rouge’s Big Ass beers are aged and where we had our samples. One of the samples we received as part of the tour was The Big Ass Tea, a dark beer brewed with South African tea. I had never had a beer like this. To say it was dark is a little of an understatement because it was a dark as tar and had about the same consistency. The smoky aroma is the first sensation to hit your palate- that is from the tea brewed with the beer- and then the consistency of the beer is what got to many of the fellow Rogue tour members. I overhead so many say they didn’t like it and that it was too weird. I thought it was great and very distinct from anything else I have tried. The smoky aroma was hickory and the beer itself was thick and had a big mouth-feel to it. This beer meant business and it did not waste any time letting you know its agenda. We also sampled the Brutal IPA which despite the harsh name was an easy beer to drink. Even though I go for a dark beer over an IPA or pale ale, I could drink a pint of this very hoppy beer. All the hops met together to create a fruity and refreshing taste that could easily be chugged as we left The Wood Room to leave for our tour. The tour started and with all the beer I was ready! We started out by seeing the famous Dead Guy Noose hanging from the ceiling (never been used) and off we went to see the keg equipment. I learned that a keg weighs 165 pounds and with the equipment that Rogue has, they can fill a keg in one minute. Then the really exciting stuff was shown to us- where the malting, mashing, boiling and fermenting take place. I don’t know about anyone else but when I see a giant fermenter I get so excited to see and understand the process that is going on inside and that soon, there will be great beer.
Understanding how beer is made is one of the reasons I love beer so much. It is all chemistry and physics- pure science- that makes the fundamentals of beer which to me is like magic. Take some yeast, water, malt and barley, let it all sit together and boom: beer. Obviously the process is more delicate than that, it is the idea of chemical changes and processes that intrigue me. I especially get interested in the variations of ingredients used in the process, like spices and other flavors (such as in Rogue’s Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale and Sriracha Stout) and as I learned on the tour: they have a beer made from a beard. Yes, a beard. It all started with Rouge’s Head Brewer and his luscious facial hair. He took some hairs from his beard, using science added the hair to a strain of hops and then made beer with it. The Beard Beer is now added to my beer bucket list, it is probably the most obscure on the list but I’m never afraid of a good beard.
After we saw how the Rouge brews are made, we walked on over to the distillery. Rogue’s distillery is a recent part of the company and has become very successful. Their liquors have won prestigious awards and have become a well-liked liquor brand. I got to sample one of the rums they make, the Dark Rum, and that was a potent and fiery sample to get down. Compared to other rums, taking this sample straight was not as painful as taking a straight shot of other rums I have had. It was interesting to see how Rogue makes their spirits and their whisky barrels and I was happy to learn that they use those barrels to age beer in. That will be a brew I will have to find.
Overall it was a great day spent at the brewery drinking beer and eating great food at the pub- where I highly recommend everyone to eat. While I was at the pub I had a pint of the Wasted Sea Star Purple Pale Ale, that is made with purple corn. Our waiter apologized that the beer itself wasn’t purple but that there was purple corn in it so don’t fret. As a beer lover I was happy that my drink wasn’t purple because I think that the pale ales look pretty on their own- showing off their light ingredients that give off a big flavor. As I mentioned before I gravitate towards darker beers and I will make an exception on my drinking list for this beer. It was an easy-to-drink beer with a refreshing aftertaste not overwhelmed by hops.
Oregon has breweries all over the state and this one is unique since it is right on the water. So go and drink beer and adventure on the beach.