by Tamara Scully
Honey Kolsch, brewed by Rogue Ale and Spirits, is more than a craft beer. It’s an ode to honeybees. It’s also an example of the farm-to-table nature of their extensive line of beverages. Rogue Ale and Spirits handcrafts beverages in Newport, OR. It began as a brewpub in 1988. From there, the company has grown to include its own farms, which supply ingredients for their fermented brews, distilled spirits and sodas.
Since 2008, when Rogue Ale and Spirits began Rogue Farms with a small hopyard, they’ve expanded their farming repertoire to include a wide range of crops which they grow, process and utilize as ingredients in Rogue’s handcrafted ales, porters, stouts, lagers, sodas, ciders and spirits. Rogue Farms grows over 30 proprietary ingredients used in their craft beverages, including seven varieties of hops, corn, wheat, malting barley, rye, pumpkins, marionberries, jalapeños, botanicals and honey.
“We are agri-fermenters and that also includes beekeeping,” Anna Abatzoglou, spokesperson for Rogue Ale and Spirits, said.
The honey used in the Honey Kolsch is also used in Marionberry Braggot, mead and Rogue Farms sodas and comes from their own hives. Honeybees are valued team members at Rogue Farms and are treated to a vast array of food sources. Rogue Farms honeybees pollinate the marionberry, jalapeno and pumpkin crops, while gathering nectar from the other crops grown on the farms. Honeybees here are well fed, thriving on the assorted nectars available from spring to late summer, including that from cherry and apple blossoms, wildflowers, walnut trees, and clover, along with berry and vegetable crops which add additional nuances of flavor.
“The honey they produce is literally the taste of all the floral flavors of our farm — the taste of the terroir,” Abatzoglou said. “We work hard to take care of our honeybees, from planting ample nectar sources, to sending them south for the winter.”
Honeybee hives are split regularly, whenever they become overpopulated. This prevents the bees from swarming and potentially escaping the farm. By splitting the hives before overcrowding occurs, the farm increases its bee population each year. They have already added almost two-dozen new hives in 2015, via splitting, making even more honey available for use in their craft brews.
Collecting honey from Rogue Farms honeybees is simple. Once the frames are removed from the hives, the honey is uncapped from the combs via a hot knife. The frames are spun to extract the honey, and the honey is then filtered through a colander to remove any wax particles. Keeping the process simple and pure retains the full flavor and quality of honey, straight from the hive.
“When given a choice between doing something the easy way, or doing it ourselves, we almost always prefer DIY,” Abatzoglou said. “That’s why we started growing our own honey instead of buying it from someone else. It fills us with pride to be able to open a bottle of Honey Kolsch and taste all of our hard work, and that of the Rogue Farms honeybees.”
Terroir and More
The flavors of Rogue Ale and Spirits all originate on their farms. Today, their slogan “Grow the Revolution,” describes exactly their philosophy of crafting a beverage from farm to glass.
John Maier, brewmaster, has been with the company from the start. He’s earned over 1,700 awards for quality and excellence in beverage making. It is Maier who selects Rogue Farms ingredients with which to craft their beverages. Maier has also developed a proprietary strain of yeast for use in fermenting Rogue beverages.
The farms need10 year-round employees, increasing to about 50 during peak harvest seasons. Located along the Willamette River, the original hopyard was planted at the Rogue Farms Independence location, in an area historically known for growing hops, beginning their foray into growing. There are now 42-acres of seven varieties of hops. Other crops grown here for use in Rogue Farms products include Wigrich corn for malting, Dream pumpkins and jalapenos. Their tasting room is also located here.
At their Tygh Valley Farm, located in the rain shadow of Mt. Hood, malting barley is a prime crop, growing on over 200 acres. The high desert climate here is vastly different from the Independence location, and is well suited not only to the malting barley, but to the many orchard crops grown here. This is the location of their Farmstead Malt House, where they malt their own grains for use in their beers and spirits. Orchard crops grown here include cherries, apples, pears, apricots and plums. The orchard crops, in addition to providing nectar for the honeybees, are used in Rogue farm ciders.
In addition to the farm proper, the Revolution Garden at Rogue Farms is where the botanicals for their gin and sodas are cultivated. While the 2,400 square feet of cucumbers – used in gin and soda – dominate, the chamomile, angelica, orris root, ginger and coriander are a few of the other crops which are used to craft Rogue Farms spirits.
The water, too, plays an active role in Rogue Farm beverages. It is listed as an ingredient, “free range coastal water,” on their product labels. Ingredient lists also include the variety of the crop used, as well as the method of malting or processing, and more. Labels include suggested food pairings, tasting notes, and even brewing specifications.
“We believe in terroir in beer. We know that ingredients that we grow on our farm are unique because of the soil they are grown in, the water source, the wind that cools them from the coastal mountain range,” Abatzoglou said. “If you use the same ingredients everyone else uses, to make the same thing everyone else makes, you can’t be different than anyone else.”
At Rogue, terroir applies to the oak they use to age their whiskeys, too. The oak is harvested locally, and handcrafted by a new local business, Rolling Thunder Barrelworks, whose first barrels were made for Rogue. It is terroir to the extreme. It exemplifies what Rogue, from farm to beverage, is all about.
Rogue Farms is growing its handcrafted beverage product line by growing its own ingredients. Rogue Ale and Spirits remains rooted in the art of craft beverages, from farm to table.
The sweet taste of growing beverages
by Tamara Scully