When I think of Rogue Brewing Company I think mostly of their array of outlandish beers. Their Sriracha stouts, purple pale ales, and Voodoo Doughnut monstrosities, among others, have tilted my bias so that I’ve tended to avoid any of Rogue’s beer.
With just a couple minutes to choose and a thin budget, it hasn’t been worth the consideration. But I need to be reminded that behind perceived gimmicks and promotional offerings, they do make some great beers. Not only do they make great beers, but also do it in novel ways that go far beyond breaking flavor boundaries.
Pendleton Pale Ale exhibits exactly those qualities, while being light and refreshing. The musty funk of complicated malt flavors unobstructed by floral hops was initially surprising for a beer with great clarity and rich orange color. The color didn’t strike me as being “Northwest," but at the same time, what I enjoyed most about this beer was the decidedly Northwest funk that pleasingly oozed from all aspects of the beer.
Brewed on the Oregon coast, with Alluvial and Rebel hops and malted grains grown on Rogue hop farms just south of Salem, Oregon, Pendleton Pale Ale showcases a pedigree to be considered a distinctly Oregon beer.
Pendleton Pale Ale showcases a pedigree to be considered a distinctly Oregon beer”
At 30 IBU, it presented a pleasing hop-forward bitterness without a heavy hand. It would not be surprising to find there was very little hop addition late in the boil or as a dry hopping. The hop aroma was light, and displayed great balance with the exceptional malt complexity. Compared to prototypical pale ales, Pendleton delivered massive flavor while still retaining its light drinkability.
The label proudly features Oregon’s lone National Park, Crater Lake, and the deep blue color of the can is a great representation of the crystalline waters for which Crater Lake is famous. The conditioning is soft and bubbly, but not necessarily crisp – the beer doesn’t introduce that effervescent zip that can both temporarily numb the mouth and immediately quench a thirst. The mouthfeel is much more rich and full, and yeast with some Belgian funk provides that last dimension to round it out.
Pendleton Pale Ale doesn’t fit within my most basic concept as far as to what constitutes “classic” pale ale. Without alienating our eastern United States friends – drawing a rough scale of the pale ale taste spectrum, with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale at one end, and Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale at the other – Pendleton leans decidedly towards the Dale’s due to its malty funk.
Despite that departure from my personal tasting biases of what defines a ”classic” pale ale, a well-crafted beer is a well-crafted beer, and this offering from Rogue showcases clear purpose and excellent execution.
Though eastern Washington is the grain and hop-growing capital of the west, Rogue has taken the bold step to eschew eastern Washington-grown ingredients and farm their own proprietary grains and hops. These locally-focused ingredients produce a uniquely “Oregon” pale ale – a testament to the Rogue brewing team.