Rogue Ales & Spirits brought everything in house to brew its latest variation of Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout: The beer was brewed with ingredients from Rogue’s Rogue Farms and aged in barrels made at Rogue’s Rolling Thunder Barrel Works. Hence the name.
“At first it was a creative challenge to see how we could incorporate our brewery, distillery, cooperage and farm into one beer,” Rogue General Manager Dharma Tamm said. “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.”
Perhaps the most significant piece of the Rolling Thunder production process is its aging in barrels made by the company itself. In 2015, Rogue bought French coopering equipment dating back to World War II.
Cooper Nate Linquist, who has been with Rogue for nearly two decades, makes the barrels with Oregon Oak. For 14 years, Linquist ran the Rogue warehouse, but his body took a toll before he took matters into his own hands.
“I told them I need to do something else, it’s tearing me up,” Linquist said. “I’d pull over on my way to work and throw up because I was so unhappy about it.”
Really its about the subtleties. The chocolate and black malts, a hint of tannin and the whiskey undercurrent from the barrel.”
Eventually, he moved to distilling but before long took charge of the company’s cooperage. The company made its first barrel three years ago, and when he’s at his full capacity now, Linquist can crank out a barrel a day.
Eventually Rogue hopes to fill all its own barrels, but for now some barrels come from Missouri’s International Stave.
Linquist can’t taste all the subtleties of each barrel and what they impart on individual beers, but he knows some expert tasters can. He’s working to learn the ins and outs of Rogue’s distilling operation. Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout is aged in barrels which all at one point held the company’s Dead Guy Whiskey, made with the mash that normally becomes Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale.
“Whenever our head distiller does a blend, he invites us over to educate us and what he’s looking for as he samples the barrels,” Linquist said. This year’s Rolling Thunder is the second batch of the Imperial Stout aged in the barrels, but Linquist said next year’s beer will be different. The beer hits shelves nationwide this month on draft and in 1-liter swing-top bottles.
Rogue promises the 14% ABV stout will be nuanced by notes of coconut, cherry, dark fruit, and vanilla, but when Linquist tastes the beer, he does know the one thing every one should be looking for, including himself: balance.
“First and foremost, this beer should be balanced, at least as much as you can say that about an Imperial Stout,” Linquist said. “Really its about the subtleties. The chocolate and black malts, a hint of tannin and the whiskey undercurrent from the barrel.”