Tasting Notes: Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout from Rogue Ales

rogueRollingThunderPour1000In recognition of a week that is largely dedicated to big ol’, Barrel-aged Imperial Stouts, we do our part by taking down some Tasting Notes on Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout from Rogue Ales (Newport, Oregon).

We first let you know about Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout (2017) when it was released back in August, and this is certainly not your run-of-the-mill Barrel-aged Stout.  No, sir.  We are talking about an Imperial Stout that was brewed by Rogue Ales with ingredients grown at Rogue Farms, and then aged in barrels that once held Dead Guy Whiskey distilled by Rogue Spirits.  Oh . . . and those handmade Oregon Oak barrels were coopered at Rogue’s Rolling Thunder Barrel Works.  If your math is the same as ours, all of that amounts to nearly every aspect of this beer having been either handled, influenced, grown, or created by a member of the Rogue family.  That’s something truly special and definitely worth a look.

Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout (2017) officially released in August with availability on draft and in 1-liter swing-top bottles.  Quantities were extremely limited at the time of release, but we have heard reports of a few bottles and kegs still floating around out there.

Now that those details are out of the way, what do you say we activate this swing-top, pour a few glasses and get into some Tasting Notes?

Tasting Notes for Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout (2017) from Rogue Ales

Appearance:  Rolling Thunder presents itself as a glassy, obsidian black brew wearing a bubbly half finger of caramel-colored foam.  When held to direct light, the beer remains opaque but dark brown tones do push through at the extreme edges of the glass.  The appearance divulges zero hints at what the beer’s carbonation level will be.  As is often the case with higher ABV brews, head retention is weak and falters quickly to a pencil-thin ring.  This Stout is quite slick on the glass and makes it nearly impossible for any lacing to take hold.

Aroma:  The aromatics are surprisingly light in intensity but incredibly delightful.  The nose is first greeted by a waft of booze and sherry before the roasted malts settle in with gentle notes of chocolate, coffee and molasses.  The profile develops further and closes with some earthiness that is accompanied by clean oak and soft vanilla tones.

Taste:  Oh . . . this is nice.  A big pop of dark fruit and distinct wood character hits the tongue first.  This opens to expose notes of sherry and dark cherries that rounds out a robust and lovely dark fruit profile.  That fruit presence is then tempered by tones of coconut, vanilla, honey, dark chocolate and roasted grain.  Sweetness then gives way to earthiness as tobacco and coffee emerges.  The flavor profile finishes with a subtle grace of whiskey.

Mouthfeel:  Rolling Thunder is leaning toward the medium side of full bodied and has a moderate carbonation level.  Although it mostly translates as sweet on the palate, there is a nice balance here and it is not at all cloying.  Just as it should, this Imperial Stout’s 14% ABV brings the heat and constantly reminds you to slow down and sip.  Slick in texture, the beer’s flavors are allowed to linger just long enough.  Aftertaste is a bit of booze, tobacco and vanilla.

Final Thoughts:  With each sip of this beer, it is clear that Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout is more about how the barrel interacts with the beer rather than being just another beer dominated by barrel character.   The fact that this offering was made by “the first brewery-distillery-barrel maker in the country” can be read easily in each pour.  You can distinctly taste and smell the beer’s grain bill and added ingredients, and that oak barrel and the Dead Guy Whiskey ingrained within is here to only support, complement, elevate and contribute to those notes.  Everything here has equal billing.  Everything used has been showcased. This beer’s complexity is deep, and it goes far beyond what one has come to typically expect from a Barrel-aged Stout these days.  Rogue Ales promised that Rolling Thunder would be special, and they absolutely delivered with one hell of an experience.  Prost!

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Rogue Ales & Spirits Set to Release 2017 Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout

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Rogue’s Rolling Thunder Barrel Works Master Cooper, Nate Linquist, poses with Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout

Rogue Ales & Spirits (Newport, Oregon) recently announced that it will begin the much-anticipated, limited release of its 2017 Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout later this month.

The story behind Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout all begins with the barrel and Nate Linquist, Master Cooper at Rogue’s Rolling Thunder Barrel Works.  Back in 2015, the folks at Rogue Ales & Spirits got their hands on some “vintage, WWII-era, coopering equipment” and established Rolling Thunder Barrel Works as “the only brewery-distillery-cooperage west of Lynchburg, Tennessee.” With this equipment and a good supply of Oregon Oak, Nate Linquist “assembles, raises, toasts, chars, hoops, cauterizes, sands and brands one barrel a day, all by hand.”  Once assembled, these meticulously crafted barrels go on to hold Dead Guy Whiskey as it matures, and then pull double duty by eventually providing Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout a home as it barrel ages.

Having been “brewed with ingredients grown at Rogue Farms and ocean aged in Dead Guy Whiskey-soaked handmade Oregon Oak barrels coopered at . . . Rolling Thunder Barrel Works”, Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout is a truly special offering because nearly every aspect of this beer has been either handled, influenced, grown, or created by a member of the Rogue family.  This homegrown approach results in a barrel-aged Imperial Stout that “features deep sherry notes accentuated by hints of coconut, cherries, dark fruit and vanilla held up against a dark roasted malt backbone with earthy hops.”  Weighing in at a massive 14% ABV, the 2017 vintage of Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout “is bigger and bolder than the inaugural 2016 release.”

“At first it was a creative challenge,” said General Manager Dharma Tamm, “to see how we could incorporate our brewery, distillery, cooperage and farm into one beer. However, our brewers, distillers, coopers, farmers – and even graphic designers turned it into a quest to create a world class beer that exemplifies the Rogue spirit of challenging the norm and pushing creative boundaries.”

2017 Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout will make its official debut at Rogue public houses starting on Friday, July 21.  This Limited Release offering will then enter distribution on August 1 with availability on draft and in 1-liter swing-top bottles.  Quantities are extremely limited, so keep an eye out for Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout at select craft beer-friendly establishments located in Florida, Oregon, California, Washington and throughout the rest of Rogue’s nationwide distribution footprint (of course, this excludes Alabama and any other state where Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout would exceed ABV and container size restrictions).  Prost!

Vital Information for Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout (2017) from Rogue Ales

Release – Limited, official release date set for July 21, 2017
Style – American Imperial Stout
ABV – 14%
Malts – Rogue Farms Dare & Risk Malts; Nate’s Smoke, Brown, Kiln Black, Roasted Barley, C40 & C75 Malts; & Oats
Hops – Rogue Farms Liberty & Freedom
Yeast – Pacman Yeast
Added Ingredients – Brown Sugar, Sweet Dark Cherries, Vanilla & Chocolate
Treatment – Ocean aged in Dead Guy Whiskey-soaked handmade Oregon Oak barrels coopered at Rogue’s Rolling Thunder Barrel Works
Availability – 1-liter swing-top bottles & draft
Beer Finder – https://www.rogue.com/finder/