Monday, June 11, 2012

Quaff Review #24: Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale

There have been some strange match-ups when it comes to beer. Mustard beer, oyster stouts, pizza beer... the list goes on but it isn't very long, because beers such as that are effectively special editions, experiments by breweries that have made their names and founded their profitability on more traditional, pedestrian offerings. But there's something to be said for letting loose, and creativity is just as acceptable in the beer world as elsewhere. I imagine it was in that spirit, then, that large, uncommonly pink bottles started appearing in beer stores recently.

I've been seeing beer from Rogue Ales of Newport, Oregon for some time now, even while I was still in Ontario - for a Pacific Northwest craft brewery, it has an uncommonly wide reach - but despite that, I hadn't tried any of its products. It was the pink bottle that put an end to that, since pink is a color you very rarely encounter in the bottle-o; when every other bottle is either green, black, or clear, such uncommon brightness tends to capture the eye - and the idea of Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale tends to capture the imagination.

Depending on where you are, you might think that this is a rather arbitrary or quixotic combination, but it really isn't... it was Voodoo Doughnut's idea originally, after all. This Portland, Oregon-based donuttery, which has only been open for nine years but has already carved out international renown across from the "KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD" sign, counts among its lineup the Bacon Maple Bar, a "luxury model" donut on which this brew is based. It's exactly what you'd expect from the name; a bar donut with a couple of strips of bacon on top. You might say that it's a miniature culinary revolution... but can something that works as a donut be transformed into something you can quaff down without losing what it is?

Rogue's Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale certainly gives it the old college try.

Left: Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale. Right: a Bacon Maple Bar from Voodoo Doughnut, which I acquired for research and familiarization purposes during my recent visit to Portland. It was late enough in the evening that the lineup was only twenty-five minutes or so.

Most likely, the first thing you'll notice upon popping the cap is the smell. From the scent alone it's no surprise that this is a bacon maple ale; it's as strong as what you'd find coming from a bottle of actual maple syrup. Unfortunately for syrup fans, that's pretty much where its involvement ends. Unlike La Loubécoise, which was the first maple-based beer I tried - yes, there are multiple varieties - in Bacon Maple Ale, the actual maple taste is sidelined to the point of being indistinguishable.

When it comes to the tongue, it's all about the bacon. In my experience, at least, the bacon absolutely dominated the taste - and it's unquestionably bacon, with a seared edge to it as if it's just been peeled off the pan with the bubbling grease and dropped into a blender. The vaguely salty bacon aftertaste likewise endures, hanging around for minutes while the maple receded further and further into memory. It's not nearly as salty as Hitachino Nest Japanese Classic Ale, however, and it's just slightly hoppy - enough that the bacon nearly drowns out the hops entirely.

The beer itself pours with a thick head and is clear and bright, and since it comes in opaque bottles there isn't an opportunity for light to infiltrate and have its way with the taste. One bottle measures in at 750 milliliters with a 5.6% alcohol content, so I'd suggest splitting this with a friend; not only can you compare notes about how well it works, but you can defray the cost this way - it's a bit hard to find here in Metro Vancouver, and when I finally came across a bottle I had to shell out upwards of $18 for it.

Would I try it again? Potentially. The price, for one, is definitely a thing to consider; it's considerably easier to find in the United States and easy as hell to find in Portland itself, where it would also be significantly cheaper. I didn't bring any more back with me because, well, that'd be all the less space for Utah's own Polygamy Porter. When it comes down to it, I tried it not just for the purposes of review, but because I wanted to be part of a spectacle... just like when I tried a Double Down.

Incidentally, when it comes to the Bacon Maple Bar itself, that tastes exactly as you'd expect a maple donut with bacon on top to taste like. incredible oh my god so good

And why pink? It's simple - the takeout boxes at Voodoo Doughnut are pink. Like the neon sign says, good things come in pink boxes. Or bottles, for that matter.


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