Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rogue: American Amber Ale

Earlier today, I was pondering Budweiser's effort to muscle into the craft-brew market with their American Ale. Mattie has discussed some of this already in his earlier post, but it is an interesting move because it shows that Budweiser thinks that craft-brews have moved past a cult phenomenon and are now worth mainstream money. But it is also interesting that Budweiser's foray into the craft-brew market was with an amber ale. I would have thought that the American-style pale ale (a-la-Sierra Nevada) or amber lager (think Sam Adams) would have caught a wider audience. Clearly the brains at Bud are betting that the amber ale is poised to make a much bigger splash.

So before Bud's American ale gets too big, it's worth noting that their name is a direct rip-off of a much longer-running brew: Rogue's own American Amber Ale. But whereas Bud loaded up on sweetish malts and cascade hops, Rogue's original is a little more subtle. The malts are there, but they are a little more scaled back--a hint of coffee or maybe toasted bitterness offsets the sweetness. The hop bitterness is much stronger than you see in a lot of other ambers, and it's much more earthy than you get in beers like Fat Tire or Bud's American Ale. The beer is medium-bodied and persists with a slightly bitter-earthy aftertaste, but it's nothing unpleasant.

I was a little disappointed in this one only because I generally expect to get some pretty complex flavors from Rogue. Instead, they've stuck to the basics and produced a simple, but very well-balanced ale. It's probably best described as a hophead's alternative to some of the sweeter ambers on the market--bringing in all the roasty malt flavors you expect from an amber but still indulging in a generous amount of hoppiness. All-in-all, a very good beer, if not a great one.

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