Webster’s Dictionary : Harmless (ADJ) 1. not causing any physical or mental damage or injury. 2. unlikely to annoy or worry people
The Dogs of Beer : Harmless (ADJ), a beer we neither love nor hate. If we love a beer, we’ll discuss it. If we hate it, we’ll debate it more. This is a beer that elicits no reaction from us. Which, to us, is the worst beer you can make.
Some beers are just lightening rods and without a doubt Rogue made a pretty good rod when they released their Bacon Maple Ale, in dedication to Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon. This shop, opened in 2003, is legendary in the doughnut world (yes I know that sounds weird, but it’s true). People stand in long lines at any one of the three Voodoo Doughnut locations to buy the confections made by owners Tres Shannon and Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson. And if you think it couldn’t get more interesting, the shop does weddings for up to 40 guests. Yes, LEGAL, weddings. Legal…bizarre weddings.
No, this isn’t my editor goofing around this time. These are actual wedding photos from Voodoo Doughnut. Apparently, the minister at Voodoo will dress up as anything you want.
Anyway, I’ve watched discussions of this beer make its way through Facebook, Twitter and Google+; and it appears that there is no middle ground with this one. People either love it or hate it. Mostly hate by what I read. It’s been described on many news services and blogs as “the most disappointing beer release in years” (then again, maybe we should just stop getting all worked up about a beer release, but that’s another post). As a matter of fact, not long after I checked it in on Untappd at the Delaware Craft Beer and Wine Lovers BBQ, Megan from MeganVsBeer tweeted:
So there ya go. Let’s look at this.
THEM: “Voodoo Doughnut” is a Bacon Maple Ale which is called a brown ale by the brewery. I guess they had to call it something. Interestingly the first JPGs of the label in late 2011 had the words “Voodoo Doughnut Porter” but once the beer was ready for sale the approved label read Ale not Porter. So apparently even Rogue didn’t exactly know where this beer was going while they were brewing it. The ingredient list is impressive, the grain bill consisting of Briess Cherrywood Smoked Malt, Weyermann Beechwood Smoked Malt, House-smoked Hickory Malt, Great Western 2 Row, Munich, C15, C75 Malts. Then, as if that’s not enough, Applewood-Smoked Bacon and Pure Maple Flavoring are added. Perle, Sterling hops are asked to do the unenvious job of balancing all that out at 30 IBUs. Fermentation takes the beer to 5.6% ABV. Oh, and the bottle is pink. Not sure how that dials into the equation, but is sure stands out on the shelf.
ME: BMA pours with a nice head that dissipates quickly. I didn’t get a lot of carbonation out of this one. The color is in the brown ale range, maybe a tinge lighter than New Castle. If I handed you this beer you wouldn’t think anything about it. Just another normal beer, until you got it to your nose. That’s when we start to spiral down the rabbit hole.
I need to state up front that I liked this beer. Maybe it’s because I like maple syrup. Maybe it’s because I have another activity I enjoy doing that makes me stand around smoking grills a lot. Or may I can just appreciate the beer for what it is, a one off experiment in extreme brewing that does nothing more that deliver what it promises, maple and bacon.
However, all that being said I can also understand why people take an honest dislike to this beer. My first thought on this particular tasting of BMA as I stuck my nose in the glass was “campfire”. Smokey, smoldering wood cinders like you used to cook hot dogs and Smores over. As a matter of fact because I feel the “bacon” part of the profile actually comes more from the smoke in the aroma than anything in the flavor of the beer, you could actually call this “Maple Hotdogs Campfire Ale”. And I can certainly understand why some people would NOT want a glass of that!
There is a hint of maple sweetness lingering in the background of the aroma, but to me it’s more apparent in the flavor as it plays peek-a-boo with the smoke. Half way through the bottle, the maple flavor started to become more pronounced, probably because my palette was starting to really get adjusted to the smoke. The finish is syrupy sweetness. No bitter. No bite. Not overly dimensional. Just a Denny’s grand slam tossed into a fermenter. If that appeals to you, you’ll probably like this beer. If you’d rather your maple and bacon stay on the plate, well…..
Is it a beer some one is going to kill a six pack of while watching football on Sunday? Absolutely not. Will I go buy a couple more bottles to keep around to pull out when I’m in the mood for a special beer? Again, no. This is a beer that must be taken for what it is, a brewery pushing the boundaries of creativity do deliver something that I can only describe as “weird”, and probably not worth more than a one time “let’s see what the F$%* this is all about” try. If you look at it as any thing more than that, you’re likely to be disappointed. It may be controversial. Hell, to some it might not even be a true beer. But it’s definitely not harmless.
Time for another beer.