Beer’s a very subjective thing. One person’s floral and vibrant tea-hopped beer is another person’s tannic and rank Gunnamatta. (Especially if that person is Neil Miller). And sometimes the most superficial things can getting you liking or hating a beer before you’ve ever raised the glass to the lips.
Advertising and branding, for example. Moa could well be making the finest beers in New Zealand right now, but I wouldn’t know because I haven’t drunk any of their product since the release of that prospectus and its associated marketing trying to convince us that their beer brand was for “men wanting moments of manhood.”
Bottle design and tap badge art is another factor that can sway me one way or another. I probably liked Garage Project’s sometimes erratic beers more than I otherwise would have because of their excellent focus on art and design. Other times a design will make me hesitate before buying their beer – Christchurch’s Harrington’s Breweries, for example, has recently revamped their label art and, on thinking about it, I haven’t bought one of their beers since. That’s very unfair on them, and I really should correct that next time I’m buying, but the new design, with the block of text sandwiched between two solid coloured blocks doesn’t attract my eye at all.
Which brings me to the subject of today’s blog, the ‘Chatoe Rogue First Growth OREgasmic Ale’, from the arm of Rogue Brewing that makes beer from ingredients sourced from their very own farm. Starting with the good; this white label with its fistful of hops both makes the bottle stand out on the shelf from other Rogue ales, while keeping in theme with other artwork from the brewery.
But the words. Oh my, the words. There’s nearly an essay’s worth of them on this bottle. Starting with the gimmick in the title – “OREgasmic.” Okay, I get that’s making it clear this beer is from Oregon, using the three-letter acronym for the state, but the front-loading of those capital letters is just ugly. But it’s not the last offense against capitalisation going on here.
And we have “Chatoe Rogue”, which carries the subtitle “GROW THE REVOLUTION.” “Chatoe Rogue”? Ooh, la la, it’s like “château” but look at our creative, revolutionary spelling! (I note that Rogue have moved to “Rogue Farms” now for their home-grown beers, which just reads and sounds better.)
And, if you hadn’t yet picked up that this beer’s been made from ingredients that are all sourced from Rogue’s own farm, there’s a silly “GYO a” thing circling the top of the label. But because that’s not clear enough the label goes on to explain that “GYO” means “Grow Your Own.”
The unpleasant mix of self-importance and self-amusement carries on all over the label. “Revolution Hops, Risk™ & Dare™ Malts” they tell us. To the right they tell us the latitude and longitude of the Rogue hopyard and barley farm. Just in case you doubted that there actually were real farms.
But, hang on, they’re not just any farms – it’s a “micro hopyard”, and a “micro barley farm”. And in case the point hadn’t been made, the list of ingredients doesn’t just list the hops and malts, it lists them as “Rogue Micro Hopyard Revolution & Independent Hops.” It’s micro, don’t you know, which means it’s better. Apparently.
The beer is also brewed with “Free Range Coastal Water.” Oh, of course it is.
There is so much annoying to me on this label. So many ham-fisted attempts to convey the “revolutionary” aspect of brewing beer from ingredients grown for the purpose, from land belonging to the brewery.
So many forceful efforts to convince the buyer (or perhaps themselves) that this is An Important Beer, made in An Important Manner, to be drunk by people discerning enough to recognise how Important it is to be drinking a beer made from Free Range Coastal Water, with ingredients from a Micro Barley Farm and Micro Hopyard.
Very Important Capitalisation. As Phil Cook, beer-ranter extraordinaire would say, what a load of brandwank.
But, enough ranting, what about the beer?
The ale’s a very cloudy orange, with a very orange coloured head, that lifts a big whack of bright, fresh, citrusy hop aromas, rising about a caramel sweetness.
It’s very sweet up front once in the mouth, but the thick complex malt characteristic is quickly kicked into touch by a big old slab of bitterness.
A very hoppy ale; perhaps needed a bit more malt to balance things out. It ends quite roughly, leaving the mouth dry with that distinct sandpapery feel that comes from hop monster ales. The body of the ale is very soft, which makes the bright and bitter hops more noticeable perhaps. Could’ve done with a bit more body, thickness and malt, I think.
But, still, quite nice. But I wonder if I would’ve liked it more if the bottle’s label hadn’t got up my nose quite so much…