Going Rogue: The LCBO Rogue Brewery Feature

As much as I appreciate that the LCBO’s periodic series of brewery features has been bringing in some great beers that Ontario drinkers might not see otherwise, I really wish the agency were a bit more organized in terms of release dates and distribution so that customers have a clearer indication of where and when the beers will be available.

Case in point: The current release featuring a half dozen selections from Oregon’s Rogue Brewery was originally announced as being due in stores in late June, so I’ve been sitting on my notes from the early May media tasting, and was planning on posting something a bit closer to the release date. Then I got word that they’d be coming at the end of May, and got ready to write something sooner – until I head that it was back to late June, and held off again.

And then the beers suddenly started hitting the shelves a week or so ago, and are already selling out in some locations, which makes this post a little less timely than I’d hoped.

There are still bottles of most of them out there, though, so here are a few quick thoughts on each to help you decide whether they’re worth the hunt…

Rogue Somer Orange Honey Ale (LCBO 246785 – $6.20/650 mL)
The one beer in the release that most overtly says “summer!”, this slightly cloudy golden ale has notes of honey, orange oil and chamomile in the aroma along with grainy malt and a bit of wheat. The flavour is sweet, but not cloying, with the honey and orange notes being nicely supported and balanced by finishing herbs (coriander , chamomile) and hops.

Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale (LCBO 246801 – $6.40/650 mL)
A trademark of these LCBO releases is the late arrival of at least one of the beers, and for this release, Morimoto Soba is the one yet to arrive. Don’t worry too much, though, as it’s the least interesting of the bunch. It’s a pleasant ale, with the buckwheat adding some nice toasty sweetness, and the restrained hops playing a good counterpoint. But ultimately, it lacks the character and uniqueness hoped for in a beer named for an Iron Chef.

Rogue Brutal IPA (LCBO 246793 – $6.40/650 mL)
Available in Ontario a couple of times previously under its old name, Brutal Bitter, this is one of Rogue’s flagship brews, and with good reason as it’s a great example of an American-style IPA, with the West Coast hops throwing lots of grapefruit, tart orange, grass, spruce and pine into both the aroma and flavour, while the caramel and biscuit notes from the malt provide some balance. Not quite as intimidating as the name suggests, but still one that hopheads will appreciate.

Rogue Northwestern Ale (LCBO 246827 – $6.40/650 mL)
Described as an “India Red Ale”, this beer was originally known as Captain Sig’s Deadliest Ale in honour of Captain Sig Hansen of The Deadliest Catch, with proceeds going to the Fisherman’s Fund. This version may no longer have the charity aspect, but it’s still a fine beer, with a ruddy mahogany body, an aroma of sweet burnt caramel and resin-heavy hops, and a delicious flavour that’s big on the grapefruit and lemon peel with backing notes of caramel and tea.

Rogue Chipotle Ale (LCBO 246819 – $6.40/650 mL)
Beers made with chili peppers are often little more novelty beverages that have way too much heat to be enjoyable, but this is a happy exception. The chipotle peppers add more smoke than fire to the brew, resulting in a beer that has a hint of burn in the finish, but mostly a lovely smokiness that would make this a great companion to BBQ. And it helps that the base beer – a version of Rogue’s Oregon Golden Ale – is a well-crafted golden ale that’s neutral enough to support the smoke without interfering, while still showing some tangy hops to help round out the finish.

Rogue Double Dead Guy Ale (LCBO 246835 – $9.95/750 mL)
This big boy was particularly scarce – only 20 cases for the whole province – so it pretty much sold out within a few days. But to be honest, it’s not a great loss if you missed out. The aroma shows promise – crisp and punchy with some concentrated fruitiness and big Cascade hop character. But the sticky body makes it tough to drink more than a small glass, and the big flavours of citrus, apricot, pine and dark sugar just aren’t that well integrated, leaving it a bit of a muddled mess. My advice: take the money you saved, add a couple of bucks, and grab a bottle each of the Brutal and Northwestern.

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