Now that craft beer has had time to mature on the beverage market, it’s high time we talked about the brews and the bees. Honey in beer has been around for thousands of years, and while it may not dominate the top list of ingredients anymore, you can’t argue with the results. Honey works well in many beer styles including IPAs, Porters, Belgian Ales, and more for the simple reason that it can add many diversifying characteristics. Much like the hop, honey can have a massive range of flavor components depending on what flowers are used, climate, and much more. The way it is used in the brewing process can also yield extremely distinctive results. This isn’t to say all beers with honey are worth trying. Many beers that use honey on the current market tend to overdo it, and ultimately diminish the other flavor components that are meant to work with the honey. There are of course notable exceptions to any list, and today I am reviewing two of those exceptions, courtesy of Rogue Ales.
I was impressed foremost by the light honey aroma that many honey beers either fall short of or obliterate your nostrils with. Drinking this beer, you are greeted with light honey and a fresh hop bouquet. This is followed by a perfectly carbonated light refreshing ale with a mild honey flavor that doesn’t dissipate until long after you’ve had a sip. This beer is well filtered and had a clear lovely golden color. There is little to no head or lacing, and that’s just fine for a refreshing springtime ale. The hops are fairly mild and although this isn’t a sweet beer, it balances the hops, malt, and Rogue honey excellently. The malt in particular works well as it has a bready quality, but doesn’t add any sort of tangible richness that would make this a heavier beer. The lasting impressions are ultimately well bodied, fresh taste, crisp (but not dry), and a careful amount of honey to balance and not overpower the muted hop flavor. The fairly moderate ABV of 5% helps to keep this sessionable as well. If rogue keeps this up, there will be a happy home for bees and beer drinkers alike.
GSN rating: 4.25/5 (Light, refreshing, very well-balanced.)
Before trying this beer, I can’t recall ever having a beer brewed with this cultivar of the blackberry plant. The Marionberry, or Marion Blackberry, is a blackberry breed stemming from the Olallie and Chehalem blackberries. This berry originated in Marion, Oregon and as a result many east coast drinkers may not be familiar with this berry. As you pour the beer, you are greeted by a creamy thick head and a strong aroma of the berry. The beer itself is extremely dark and virtually opaque and only with a strong light shining through it can you see the rich deep red color that is present. The first sip is a little intense as the high ABV (11.42%) gives it a strong boozy flavor that captures the attention of your taste buds. After the booziness relaxes a little, the somewhat tart berry flavor presents itself. The flavor of the berry is nice and matches what one would expect from smelling the aroma. The tartness is gently replaced with the honey as you reflect on the flavor. The honey itself isn’t overpowering, but instead adds a complimentary balance to the intensity of the previous flavors. The lasting flavor is one of a dry tannic nature, and while it isn’t bad by any means, it doesn’t quite seem to work with the flow of the honey and berry. I’m not sure if the dry tannic flavor was meant to mitigate the sweetness of the honey, but as the beer itself is rich and not cloying, it doesn’t seem to work. It’s definitely rich however, and for anyone who wants to dry something unique and a bit heavier without going to a stout or porter, this is one worth tasting. There is a lot going on and the flavors are consistent as you continue to imbibe. The hops aren’t highly noticeable, but if you search hard enough, you can taste them working subtly in the background of the brew, holding it together somewhat. While this isn’t a stellar beer, knowing the ingredients were all produced by Rogue Ales themselves gives this beverage some well deserved credit. The brewers, farmers, and bees worked hard to produce this interesting beer, and it certainly stands out amongst the other honey beers and braggots.
GSN RATING: 3.75/5 (Boozy, tannic, and a tart berry flavor tempered by honey.)
Review by Kieran Jerome Matthew for Good Spirits News