Multiple Types of Craft Lead to One Beer

Having a farm, a brewery, a distillery and a cooperage makes Newport, Oregon’s Rogue Ales & Spirits unique. The transference of being able to grow the grain and hops for beer and liquor and transfer flavors from both to each other through an on-site barrel-making house isn’t going to be something most craft breweries can do. But sometimes craft for craft’s sake has been more important for president Brett Joyce.

“Really you can’t even think of the cost at some level,” he told Brewer in an interview last summer. “The most expensive ingredients we use are the ones we grow ourselves. People have asked over the years if we are trying to be vertically integrated and this is the furthest thing from efficiency and from a strategy of vertical integration. Economically it’s not the smartest thing in the world, but we just thought it would be fun and creative and do something that had not been done before.” (Read more with Joyce in last August’s interview here.)

With that comes the confluence of all aspects of the company with its now annual Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout. The initial release came in 2016.

Brewed with ingredients grown at Rogue Farms and ocean aged in Dead Guy Whiskey-soaked handmade Oregon Oak barrels coopered at Rogue’s Rolling Thunder Barrel Works, Rolling Thunder is the culmination of a long journey from bark to bottle.

“At first it was a creative challenge,” said General Manager Dharma Tamm in a release, “to see how we could incorporate our brewery, distillery, cooperage and farm into one beer. However, our brewers, distillers, coopers, farmers – and even graphic designers turned it into a quest to create a world class beer that exemplifies the Rogue spirit of challenging the norm and pushing creative boundaries.”

In 2015 Rogue acquired World War II-era coopering equipment and created a new aspect to the company with Rolling Thunder Barrel Works.

Rogue’s cooper Nate Lindquist — who was a brewer at the facility but took on the challenge to become a cooper after a year and a half as an apprentice — assembles, raises, toasts, chars, hoops, cauterizes, sands and brands one barrel a day, all by hand.

The barrels are soaked first with Dead Guy Whiskey, which is distilled from the brewery’s Dead Guy Ale mash.

From there, eight different types of grains — including oats and Rogue Farms barley — are brewed with Rogue Farms hops, brown sugar, sweet dark cherries, vanilla and chocolate. The Rolling Thunder barrels that once held Dead Guy Whiskey are filled with Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout while still wet from the transfer. After nine months in the “homemade” barrels from Lindquist, the Imperial Stout is poured into 1-liter bottles. The brewery created a short video to showcase its work.

At 14 percent, the brewery says this year’s Rolling Thunder is bigger and bolder than the inaugural 2016 release. Limited quantities are available select retailers nationwide starting August 1.

“Getting everything to come together from our various workstation and form one spectacular product,” Lindquist said. “Yeah, that’s a lot of fun. Everything came together so beautifully.”

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