The first thing you notice about Rogue's headquarters in Newport, Oregon is how un-brewery-like it is. No towering tanks or imposing smokestacks loom over a mass production operation. The main facilities sit a stone's throw from a bustling bayside marina, in a warehouse you might otherwise mistake for a fishery. That's all in keeping with the nearly 30-year-old craft brewery's longstanding mission: be different.
To find out how doing just that has earned them some of the industry's biggest accolades, we took a look behind the scenes at the brewery, and the sprawling farms that supply much of the ingredients that go into their suds and spirits.
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Rogue was founded in 1988 about four hours south of Ashland, Oregon by a trio of Nike executives—Jack Joyce, Rob Strasser, and Bob Woodell. The three were college pals and caught the microbrewery bug that was quickly spreading across the country. They relocated the operation a year later to the more scenic Newport and launched Rogue's bayfront brewpub, which quickly earned a loyal band of local drinkers.
The brand's current master brewer, John C. Maier, joined the team in 1989, and it's his inherent homebrewer's mentality and experimental nature that's responsible for the growth of Rogue into the industry leader it is today (as of 2013, they were the 27th largest craft brewery, and 36th largest overall brewery in the U.S.).
Under Maier's tutelage, Rogue has debuted over 60 different brews, whose distinct flavor profiles come primarily from the ingredients grown on their two huge farms. Although it's safe to assume that the boldest ingredients in their glorious Sriracha, Doughnut Bacon, and other more creatively-flavored offerings, don't grow in the fields.
Just as the terroir of a grape affects the composition of its wine, so too does the region where a beer's hops, barley, and other added elements are grown. Owning the farms gives Rogue the unique power to control the brewing process from the ground to the bottle.
Their 3,800-acre ranch in Tygh Valley (above) serves as a malting facility and is also where they grow their barley, grapes, apples, plums, and more.
Rogue has another farm dubbed Rogue Nation's Department of Agriculture, located in Independence, Oregon. It's the birthplace of their hops and rye, plus jalapeños (which are eventually smoke-dried into chipotles), pumpkins, and hazelnuts.
They also keep some animals, including pot-bellied pigs, free-range chickens, and turkeys. And the source of the nectar that goes into their delicious Rogue Farms Honey Kolsch? The 100+ honey bee colonies they've cultivated on-site.
More recently, they've also added a selection of boozier options to the catalog by distilling a run of unique spirits including whiskies, gins, a hazelnut-flavored rum, a chipotle-flavored liquor and even donut-flavored vodka. Mmm...vodka.
You'll have no trouble finding a great deal of their catalog locally, but if you'd prefer a more all-encompassing experience you should absolutely head west to one of their 14 different so-called "meeting halls" in Issaquah, Washington, San Francisco, California, and of course, Oregon—including the bar inside the Newport brewery. There, you'll get to taste a wider variety of brews, some of which are only available on the premises.
Make sure to stick around for a tour, as well. You know, unless you're dead inside and would hate being driven around in an awesome little train.
Joe McGauley is a senior editor at Supercompressor. He goes Rogue whenever it's on the menu.