The Porta-Pooj retreats from the herd.(The Root Beer Store, September 2015)
If you were to throw a Tillamook Baby Loaf in any given direction from any given location in Oregon, you would probably have a reasonably good chance of hitting a craft brewer. Of the glut of breweries that have cropped up during the Pacific Northwest’s micro-brew renaissance, however, you could also probably make a reasonably good argument that Rogue is one of the more successful. From their beginnings in Ashland in 1987, to their fortuitous relocation to Newport – their lease negotiated when one of their co-founders just happened to be stranded in Newport during a snowstorm – Rogue has since grown into a multi-award-winning producer of ales, porters, and stouts. Their vertically-integrated operation includes farming their own barley, hops, and rye, and their production has expanded to include non-beer items such as cheese, tuna (to which I must add ehhhh???), and, of course, root beer (source).
Rogue Root Beer is also award-winning…well, sort of, at least technically-speaking. More accurately, their Root Beer bottle won a packaging design award last year (source). While we can probably all reasonably agree that the bottle is nice-looking on the outside, we wouldn’t want to seem superficial either, so let’s just say that it’s really what’s on the inside that counts, right? Yeah…? OK.
What’s on the inside, when poured outside, has a decent head of soft bubbles; the bigger the pour, the bigger the head (the ingredients list “sparkling foam” as the foaming agent). The scent is heavily licorice, slightly medicinal, and the flavor is crisp, almost fruity, with some clove for good measure. As the fruity flavor fades, the honey flavor builds – light, like blossom honey, not like clover honey – and floats to the top of the mouth. Eventually the fruity flavor comes back in an apple cider-like finish, with a very slight amount of heat in the aftertaste.
The honey – which is also produced at the Rogue farm, by the way – doesn’t really thicken the texture like I’ve come to expect from other honey-sweetened root beers, nor does it make the drink cloying, as I’ve experienced in the past (though don't always expect). Instead, the brown sugar actually adds some depth to the sweetness (and it’s definitely on the sweet side of the scale). Ultimately though, the fruity flavor comes back to dominate, and that imparts an overall tart taste to the whole thing that I’m not really sure I like.
For all that Rogue does right as a company, I just don’t think their Root Beer really hits all the marks of a good, classic root beer. While I’d most certainly welcome trying some of their other sodas (except the Pumpkin Spice, because…why…never…pumpkin spice…eh), I didn’t particularly like the root beer. Rogue Root Beer gets a high 3.