Rogue Beard Beer
Rogue Ales has been mashing the vino-centric concept of terroir into beer more aggressively than anyone else in Oregon. Some of the Newport-based brewery’s initiatives have been mostly about marketing: for example, Rogue’s “special” hops, including “Independent” and “Revolution,” are just renamed versions of familiar varietals grown on a partner farm. Rogue’s just-released Beard Beer is more ambitious. After a failed attempt to isolate a beer-friendly wild-yeast strain at its partner farms, Rogue sent a few follicles of brewmaster John “More Hops” Maier’s decades-old beard to San Diego’s White Labs. From those follicles come the spores used to make this beer. It’s not nearly as weird as it sounds. There are more than 1,600 species of yeast in the wild, a handful of which can ferment sugar into alcohol and fewer still that can do so without leaving unpleasing flavors. The best brewing yeasts are found on animals and sweet things, like rotting fruit. Because yeast naturally hybridizes, and because Maier spends a lot of time around Rogue’s house strain, called “Pacman,” it’s quite possible this new yeast got its brewer-friendly traits from the domesticated variety from Maier’s workday, with a few wild genes bred in during a walk around town. The beer itself is quite normal: a sweet, bread-y American wild ale without much to distinguish it beyond a notable pineapple flavor.