From the recent Brewers Association export figures you’d be forgiven for thinking the British are losing their appetite for US craft beer.
Even though the UK is American craft brewers’ fourth largest market exports barely increased in 2015. Then again the figures could be down to the exclusion of Lagunitas – which no longer counts as craft beer after selling a 50% stake to Heineken.
All the more reason that American imports to the UK need to be absolutely outstanding. Which brings me to Rogue. For some of you this won’t be a new name. The brewery started life some 30 years ago as a brewpub in Ashland, Oregon but moved to a larger site in Newport (also in Oregon) and now also has meeting halls and a couple of Rogue Farms elsewhere in the state.
It’s the hops from their farms that led to the creation of their new Hop Family series of IPAs which in turn inspired me to write this. The IPAs feature different combinations of the eight varieties of hops they grow and range in ABV from 4% up to just over 8%.
Perhaps you’re thinking, ‘that doesn’t sound particularly inspirational’, but if you’ve tried these beers I suspect you’ll be nodding your head.
Everyone’s taste in beer is different and whether you love, loathe or are indifferent to a beer is largely subjective. But what struck me about these Rogue beers was how fresh and flavourful they tasted. They wowed me with every sip. Even Beer Husband was impressed. American hops are not usually to his taste at all, but he kept coming back to steal another mouthful.
I get sent a hell of a lot of bottled beers and lately I’ve noticed that many of them appear to have been pasteurised to death. Or at least that’s what I imagine, as they exhibit a uniform character and similarity of blandness regardless of style or ingredients. They are drinkable but forgettable – and not worth writing (or tweeting) home about.
So when I had these Rogues I was blown away by how tasty they were and further impressed as they’d been sent to me all the way from Oregon in the north west of the USA. I asked them how they managed to ensure they tasted so amazing. Although they wouldn’t comment on how they maintain quality once the beer has left the brewery they said they don’t pasteurise but instead use a centrifuge – which is a piece of equipment within which beer is whizzed round so fast all the solids drop out (and are removed and collected) so there is no need to filter or pasteurise the beer.
Many brewers hail the centrifuge as being more gentle on the beer, while still removing undesirable solids that might decrease its natural shelf life, with the advantage of retaining more flavour and aroma.
A spokeswoman for Rogue said, “Centrifuging our beer is important because it provides the beer with the appearance that John Maier (Rogue’s legendary brewer) intends while not stripping out any of the flavour components.”
If I was a brewer with a centrifuge which worked that well I’d feel like bragging about it on my bottles. Then again would the Average Drinker (if such a beast exists) be interested in, or understand, the benefits of the centrifuge?
Although it doesn’t brag about the centrifuge, something else about Rogue bottles caught my eye. Each bottle has a couple of little pictures on the back of things like cows, chickens and vegetables. A quick visit to the brewery website explains, ‘How to read a Rogue’ and that these are food matching symbols. What a simple way of saying beer and food are made for each other – and indicating what food will go best with each beer.
I’m often asked what I think are the best or latest innovations in the beer industry and find myself scratching my head trying to think of something . Next time I’m going to remind myself that innovation doesn’t mean re-inventing the wheel. It can be as simple as centrifugal force and some small pictures to show what food goes best with your beer.
At time of writing the Rogue Hop Family IPAs were available from Beers of Europe (and probably other retailers too!)