You love the blog, so subscribe to the Beervana Podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud today!

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Rogue Is Doing Incredibly Interesting Stuff

If I asked you to name the ten breweries doing the most interesting things in the US, you'd probably leave Rogue off the list. In most markets, Dead Guy is the face of the brewery, an ancient beer by US standards, and a pretty boring one at that. When we think of cutting edge, our mind turns to places like Scratch Brewing, Crooked Stave, or pFriem. But you'd be hard pressed to find a brewery as ambitious as Rogue. Consider:
  • Rogue has developed an extensive farm where they grow branded, proprietary strains of barley (300 acres) and hops (42 acres).
  • The brewery floor malts its barley.
  • They grow other crops on their farm, from which they produce mead, braggot, and flavored beers.
  • Rogue has gotten into distilling, and now grow their own corn and rye to make whiskey.
  • Rogue has also started making cider, although it's not clear that they have an orchard or plans to plant one.
And then there's this, which Rogue announced today:
Rogue Ales & Spirits announces the release of 2016 Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout, its first-ever beer aged in barrels made at Rogue’s cooperage....

Rogue acquired vintage French WW II era coopering equipment before knowing where to put it and who was going to make the barrels. Longtime employee Nate Lindquist volunteered to be Rogue’s first cooper and spent a year as an apprentice learning the ancient art form of barrel making. Using Oregon White Oak, Nate assembles, raises, toasts, chars, hoops, heads, hoops again, cauterizes, sands and brands each barrel, one at a time all by hand. At full capacity, he makes one barrel a day. 
This is really fascinating--and the kind of thing I'd normally be all over. Rogue, unfortunately, is perhaps the most secretive brewery in the world (at least now that St. James Gate has opened up a bit). They deliver information pre-packaged with a smile and the unmistakable message: take it or leave it. I've tried to engage the brewery about their produce, but they won't even tell me basic facts, like whether a certain hop is high-alpha or not. Since they have their own marketing team putting out all this material anyway, it hardly matters if I reprint it.

Every now and again it is worth stopping to admire it all--if, necessarily, we must do so at a great remove, without any actual details.


  1. But what does all that interesting stuff matter if their beers aren't particularly good?

  2. Rogue has become a punchline...

  3. Have their labor and business practices improved, do you know? I appreciated your posts on them from a few years back and your attempt to present something balanced. I guess, though, I disagree with your conclusion for this post, if they're still secretive and if it's still hell to work for them: it's not worth "stopping to admire it all" in a company that does poorly by its employees and by reporters.

  4. Yes, the stories that you hear from Rogue employees tends to colour your judgement on any of their so-called 'achievements'.

  5. So I live right up the street from the RNN office here in PDX and know a guy who very recently...decided on a new career path after some time at Rogue. It sounds as if management infighting could be a problem. Some people there think they should focus more on the actual beers than the marketing with too much going on overall - imagine trying to keep all these operations in tune with each other.
    as a sidenote, Dead Guy is (or was) THE craft beer on tap, if there was one, in all the progressive little college bars and whatnot before things really kicked off. I have indeed ordered 'merican mass lager over Rogue on many occasion, to some embarrassment, but months-old Dead Guy on an un-refrigerated tapline that's never been cleaned? Pass.

  6. That's pretty accurate. I knew a guy who worked there who said the same thing. They still have insanely high turnover and apparently just lost half their management staff just recently. Apparently what Jeff said is pretty spot on.