Pros: Incredibly complex stout
The Rogue Ales Brewing Company of Portland, Oregon, likes to think that there is a little Rogue in all of us. I know for a fact there?s a little Rogue in me right now. Twenty-two ounces to be precise. That is because I just finished downing a bomber of Rogue Shakespeare Stout, a wonderful beer and one of my very favorite stouts period. This is a beer of great character about which, I am sure, Shakespeare would compose great sonnets were he still alive today.
Though a famous Englishman may have been the inspiration for the beer?s name, Shakespeare stout is wholly Irish in style. It is an Irish dry stout to be precise, a roasty, bitter black ale of which style Guinness is perhaps the definitive version. Rogue?s version, with its wonderful Cascade hop character, is very different from Guinness and gives an idiosyncratic new-world take on an old-world favorite.
In years past, Rogue bottled Shakespeare under the name Wild Irish Rogue for St. Patrick?s Day, though they seem to have discontinued this practice. Though it was the same beer, I always looked forward to the release of Wild Irish Rogue, since it was only issued annually and the shiny, newly filled bottles meant that the beer inside was as fresh as one could expect to get 3000 miles or so from the brewery.
Recently, Rogue Shakespeare Stout has been embroiled in a fierce battle. A battle of the beers in fact, one in which 32 brews were selected by realbeer.com, and site visitors voted for their favorites between pairs of them until only two were left. Realbeer selected Rogue Shakespeare stout as one of the combatants, though one wonders if in name Rogue?s Brutal Bitter might have been better suited to the ruthless brutal battle to come.
There were four arenas in which beers struggled for dominance: The Saloon, The Pub, The Cafe, and The Tavern. Shakespeare was seated in The Pub. In its first fight, Shakespeare quickly trounced challenger MacTarnahan's Ale by a margin of 541 to 302. The next battle looked to be a bit tougher however as serious contender Bell?s Expedition Stout came roaring in against Victory?s Hop Devil, but unexpectedly it was Hop Devil that got the Victory by a close vote of 401 to 371.
Meanwhile, Shakespeare scored its second win, beating Bridgeport IPA by 118 votes, 541 to 423. That pitted it against the legendary Hop Devil to be champion of The Pub. The contest was very close, but in the end, Shakespeare squeaked by with 507 votes to Hop Devil?s 498, and advanced to the championships, where it lost in the semi-finals to Alaskan Smoked Porter 657 to 632. Alaskan Smoked Porter went on to win the tournament, which proved to be a lot of fun (watch realbeer.com for possible future matches.
However you pour it, Rogue?s Shakespeare Stout is always a winner in my book. Indeed, it has won numerous awards including an amazing 99 score out of a possible 100 from the World Beer Championships.
Rogue Shakespeare Stout pours to a jet black, inky color with a thick creamy tan head and a soft mocha nose. Full-bodied palate in, this is a very, very roasty brew packed with powerful notes of espresso, toffee, creamy pudding and lots of bittersweet chocolate. There are piney Cascade hop flavors too and a gradually increasing hop bitterness that is both grassy and minty. An aggressive lingering buzz is left on your tongue after sipping. The website puts this beer at 69 IBUs but the bottle says 53. I would lean towards the higher number myself.
An excellent, world-class stout that is truly not to be missed.