Perusing the beer cooler of your local Whole Foods, I’m sure you’ve seen it – the absurd hot pink bottle containing Bacon Maple Ale, Rogue’s now-infamous collaboration with Portland, Oregon neighbor Voodoo Doughnut, a donut shop that makes a lot of non-standard donuts like “Maple Blazer Blunt,” “Gay Bar,” “Dirty Snowballs,” and perhaps most notably, *the* “Bacon Maple Bar.”
This beer I’m drinking is intended to approximate the Bacon Maple Bar. Yes – this is a beer that is supposed to taste like smoky bacon and maple syrup. If you don’t have much experience with beers that taste of such things, rest assured that it’s actually not all that uncommon for beer to taste like cured meat-and-campfire. There is a long-established smoked beer tradition in Bamberg, Germany, where they call it “Rauchbier” (smoke beer). These are beers brewed with a predominance of smoked malt, giving them a distinctive aroma and taste, often like smoked salmon, I find. Traditional rauchbiers from Bamberg’s Schlenkerla brewery are all available in South Florida – give one a try.
Of course, as usual, American craft brewers are not content to rest upon tradition, preferring instead to re-imagine these old styles. Rogue doesn’t call this Bacon Maple Ale a rauchbier, but that’s essentially what it is, as it’s brewed with cherrywood, beechwood and hickory-smoked malts. The non-traditional additions come in the form of applewood-smoked bacon and maple, trying to emulate that famous donut!
The pour yields no clues; move along, nothing to see here. It looks like a standard amber ale.
Your first indication that this is not an ordinary beer comes via the nose, with lots of maple syrup coming through. Bacon? Maybe a little – you know how when you order pancakes with a side of bacon, and the bacon ends up getting drenched with maple syrup? It smells a lot like that.
It’s on the palate where the real smoky bacon aspect takes hold. It doesn’t taste as maple-y as it smells, the maple pulling through more on the back end and aftertaste. Rogue’s house yeast (they call it Pacman Yeast) is known for being a voracious chomper of sugar and rarely leaves much residual; such is the case here – any sugars from the maple would have fermented out. I think a little more sugar would have worked here as far as making this taste *exactly* like a Bacon Maple Bar, but then again, I also think that the dryness is what makes it so easy for me to drink. If this was a sweet beer, flavor fatigue would probably set in quickly.
This has proven to be a polarizing beer. I’ve shared this with a number of people, and about half seem to love it, while the other half does not like it at all. We opened one of these up at the old Miami pop-up restaurant Phuc Yea! among a group of distinguished beer and food aficionados, and the reaction was pretty much split right down the middle. Count me in with the “loves” – in fact, as a huge smoked beer fan, I think this one’s awesome. Yes, it is an expensive 750ml bottle, but believe it or not, I have no problem killing this one off by myself, especially at its very manageable 5.6% ABV.
This one is still available around town – Whole Foods seems to be your best bet. As for food pairings, BBQ is obvious…I’m also thinking of a smoked Gouda…..yum! Pancakes ‘n bacon, of course….does IHOP allow BYOB?