Rogue’s Brilliant Beard Beer

I’ve never been very fascinated by terroir, a term normally attributed to wine in reference to the effect an environment has on a finished agricultural product. More officially (or according to Wikipedia), terroir is “the special characteristics that the geography, geology and climate of a certain place bestow upon particular produce such as wine, coffee or tea”. All this still sounded fairly boring until I learned of the biggest terroir-related news story to rock the craft beer world in a while:

For Rogue brewmaster John Maier, you see, terroir is the special characteristics that his beard bestows upon his beer.

Two weeks ago, the brewery announced via press release that, as a joke, Rogue sent off “nine beard follicles” from Maier to their yeast analysis lab (You don’t have one of those?). The joke was on them as they discovered that somehow, for better or for worse, his face-blanket contained a strain of wild yeast viable for use in beer.

A lesser brewery may have had thoughts of doubt like, “Nobody’s going to want to drink a beard beer,” or “Let’s not and say we did,” or “Ew. Ew. Ew. What the hell, John?”. Not Rogue.

Currently, test beers are brewing for Rogue to find the optimal style in which to use this yeast. The mystery beer already has a name- New Crustacean- and is slated for release in early 2013.

Personally, I am ecstatic. While I’m ashamed to say that I gag at the thought of this brew (for me, it conjures a picture of a solo cup filled with soggy beard hairs), I plan to get over it sometime in the next seven or eight months. It’s experimental; it’s whimsical; it’s exactly the sort of inspired “f*** you” to culinary stuffiness that makes craft beer so outstanding.

A further exploration of terroir reveals that the word doesn’t just refer to the physical attributes of the environment in which an agriculture grows; it also encompasses the culture- the human intent- that allows these outside forces to reach the product. In our example, the terrain- er, beard is no more important than the mischievous attitude that sent a petri dish full of beard to a legitimate place of science. Trickery in my beer is something I can get behind, even if it’s tricking me into drinking a solo cup full of soggy beard hair.

~Don Julian


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