A love letter to the Rogue Brewing Company, re: Chipotle Ale

By Emily Brightman

Shaina Mishkin/Daily Collegian

Throughout the course of my development as a serious beer geek, it goes without saying that I have done my fair share of experimenting with a plethora of beers from many brewing companies, some of which I have gone back to repeatedly and some of which have ended up being the beverage equivalent of a one-night stand. In this time, I have become quite fond of a handful of brewing companies that I am fairly confident I can always rely on to provide me with a delicious concoction to quench my malty appetites. While I hate to limit myself by choosing a singular “favorite,” my ongoing love affair with the Rogue Brewing Company sometimes takes precedent over my other beer-related affinities.

In a word, I am infatuated.

Gems from the Rogue mine have been fleshing out my beer stash from that first sip of their Dead Guy Ale taken shortly after my 21st birthday, and when I am at a total loss as to what to dedicate my weekly beer allowance to, I typically resort to a Rogue brew to ease my fiendish desires. Over the years, I have enjoyed many a pint of its Mocha Porter and Dad’s Little Helper Black IPA, not to mention a potentially unhealthy amount of the Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout when it’s available. I even feel comfortable going so far as to say that the Rogue Brewery was somewhat instrumental in my maturation as a beer enthusiast and continues to tantalize me with its stunning variety of strange and exotic beers.

Most recently, Rogue has captured my heart by combining two of my favorite things: beer and hot peppers. I am a serious spice fiend – the hotter the better – and I’ve been known to experiment with various members of the pepper family in my own cooking from time to time. I am especially fond of the unmistakably smoky taste of chipotle peppers, so naturally when my eye caught the label “Rogue Chipotle Ale” whilst perusing the craft beer shelves, I immediately snagged two bottles, doing my best to contain my childish excitement.

Poured from the characteristic 22 oz. bottle, the medium off-white head on Chipotle Ale dissipates slowly into a frothy lacing. The color is dark reddish amber with a clear body and no explicit presence of sediments when held up to the light. In terms of aroma, this beer is largely smoky with a definite under layer of heavy bread malt indicated by its base as an amber ale. Also in the nose is the faint smell of sweet peppers mingled with a dark woodsy scent, not unlike other smoked-style beers. Though the smoke element borders on overwhelming, the balance of malt prevents the beer from being too weighted to one flavor over the other.

The first sip is a veritable shock of smoke gradually evened out by a bready sweetness that leaves the tongue with an almost tingly sensation. Certain bitterness in the finish adds a well-rounded quality to the taste, bringing the beer together with the distinct flavor of chipotle peppers. On the whole, the flavor composition here is more about the smoke rather than the bite of the peppers, but the combination of these aspects with typical ale characteristics allows for a motley flavor experience that fairly surpasses the sum of its parts.

In addition to palatability, Chipotle Ale also comes equipped with a brief history lesson. In the mid-16th century, Spanish author Juan de la Cueva wrote of a dish from Mexico that combined beer and chili peppers, a concept which served as the inspiration behind Chipotle Ale, according to the Rogue Brewery’s website. Based on the style of their American Amber Ale, the brewers at Rogue blended in essence of smoked chipotle peppers to create a heavy ale that is equal parts smoky and subtly sweet.

Chipotle peppers are a common element in Mexican cooking, and the smokiness in Chipotle Ale lends itself well to accompany Mexican-style dishes as well as other spicy foods. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, the Rogue website recommends combining Chipotle Ale with their Chocolate Stout to create a Mole-style black and tan. Mole is a sauce that combines chocolate and chili peppers and is a staple of traditional Mexican cuisine. Having had a secret stash of Rogue Chocolate Stout conveniently chilling in my fridge, my deep-seeded affinity for both Mexican food and black and tans prompted me to try this tantalizing recipe. Though I maintain that the original black and tan formula of Guinness and Newcastle Brown Ale is by far the best, I will openly admit that the combination of Rogue’s Chipotle Ale and Chocolate Stout came damn close to taking the top spot. If you consider yourself flavorfully adventurous, I highly recommend you try the Mole black and tan. Trust me, it’s worth the splurge.

So here’s to you, Rogue Brewery – may you continue churning out your impressive selection of strange and exotic beers for many years to come. I can assure you that a decent portion of my paycheck will always be dedicated to stocking my fridge with your delectable nectars. Cheers!

Emily A. Brightman can be reached at [email protected]