My Rogue downtown debauch was delicious but vengeful
by Aidan Morgan
1821 Scarth Street
This story comes with an official Middle-Aged Man Abusing The Word Debauchery warning. Nothing is worse than getting into an article with words like “debauchery” in the title, only to discover that the writer is some guy in his 40s who thinks that debauchery consists of drinking a few beers during the week and suffering from an angry tummy the next day.
Yes, that’s who I am and that’s what I did. That’s how I pulled you into this story. Welcome to my tale of oldster debauchery, which includes strong beer, a lot of cheese and an evening of self-pity on the couch.
On Nov. 3, Beer Bros featured the Rogue Tap Takeover, offering a selection of nine beers from Oregon’s Rogue Brewery. Rogue has drawn some controversy over the years, from stories about its business practices to gripes about its exceedingly smooth marketing machine. Some* may say that Rogue is better at marketing its product than making it (Dead Guy Ale is a classic example: a great name and a cool label slapped on a cloyingly sweet one-note beer), but there was no way I was going to pass up the chance to have too much beer on a Monday evening, just as Sunday morning’s hangover was leaving a note on my door (“See you next weekend! Cheers, your hangover”).
Pints were available for $7-$8, or a flight of three beers for $12 — not exactly cheap, but on par with downtown tap prices. A wise drinker would select from the spectrum of beers: say, a crisp Morimoto Pilsner, a hoppy IPA, a dark, alcoholic stout or barleywine. Not being a wise drinker, I chose exclusively from the menu’s strong, dark section: Brutal IPA (5.8% ABV), Russian Imperial Stout (11.6% ABV) and the Crustacean Barleywine (11.5% ABV). Barleywine, which sounds like something a hobbit would drink, is a strong concoction that acts like a gracious guest in your body until it suddenly picks up a crowbar and clubs you over the head.
My fellow Knight of Appetite and I ordered a Blue Cheese and Mushroom Pizza ($16) to start. I know nothing about beer pairings and generally ignore all alcohol-food matching advice (except the one about not matching cinnamon schnapps with anything at all), but that pizza went extraordinarily well with the Brutal IPA. Beer Bros pizzas, with their thin crust and rectangular body, look more like flatbreads than the Greek-style version you’ll find all over the city, but they’re excellent for sharing. The blue shroom was full of earthy mushrooms and tangy blue cheese, and it vanished almost instantly (because we ate it. Quickly. It’s not some high-energy particle pizza).
As the pizza narrowed on the plate and the Brutal receded, we decided more food was necessary. I went with the Beer Bros standby, the Ale and Cheddar soup ($5/$8.50), and my companion, who might be insane, doubled down on the established cheese theme with the Seafood Mac and Cheese ($19). I could be wrong, but the ale and cheddar soup seems to have increased in density and cheesiness over the years, to the point where it’s practically a fondue without forks. The soup overflows with potatoes, vegetables, bacon and heavy cream. To call it hearty is an understatement.
The seafood mac and cheese is a riot of creamy, steaming lactose-laden goodness, full of shrimp, scallops and trout. It’s a remarkably decadent and delicious dish, and it’s probably much too rich to have very often. At $19, it’s also one of the most expensive macaroni and cheese dishes you’ll ever have, but it should be tried at least once. The only thing I’d wish for is a little note of sharpness.
After the Brutal IPA, I started in on the Russian Imperial Stout, which is sort of like the stern old Kaiser of stout beer: strong, assertive and malty. The Rogue version had a bit of that grapefruit hop taste, although it’s possible that the IPA was messing with my tastebuds at that point. The barleywine, which I was saving for last, was far and away my favourite. Not all of Rogue’s beers (and they produce an astonishing array of them for a craft brewery) hit the mark, but the Old Crustacean was excellent. Like a lot of extra strong beers, the Old Crustacean is pricy and is generally served in smaller glasses
Unfortunately, my stomach had had enough at that point, and I couldn’t finish the third flight. I should have started with the barleywine, and perhaps I would have had the wherewithal for another flight. A slightly less cheese-engorged meal might have helped me stay the course a bit longer as well, but without this kind of constant experimentation, how will I ever learn?
*By ‘some’ I refer to Reddit user butthole_balls, who has a lot of opinions on beer and politics.