One of the most popular and highly regarded craft breweries in the U.S., Rogue Ales & Spirits just recently celebrated the 25th Anniversary of its first pint. That's a major event for both the craft movement, which has come a long way since Rogue started in the basement of a 60-seat brew pub in Ashland, Oregon, and the company's founders, who are always looking for new creative outlets. His impulsiveness got Rogue President Brett Joyce into the spirits business, which is quietly becoming a major part of what draws drinkers to his Newport facility.
"Our original still was hand-built from 100% copper by Bill Van Boyen, a merchant marine from Newport, Oregon," says Joyce. "From there, we essentially taught ourselves to distill." Ten years later, Rogue was named "Distiller of the Year" at this year's annual World Beverage Competition held in Geneva. The company's whiskeys, vodkas, and rums beat out both artisanal outfits and big boys like Bacardi and Dewar's.
"Not too bad for a small craft distillery on the Oregon coast," says Joyce, who doesn't even sound like he's boasting.
Rogue currently produces Oregon Single Malt Whiskey, Oregon Single Malt Vodka, Dead Guy Whiskey, Spruce Gin, Pink Spruce Gin, Chipotle Spirit, Hazelnut Spice Rum and Dark Rum. There is a constant collaboration between the distillery side and the brewing side. "Collaboration is an interesting way to put to it,” says Joyce. "We rarely separate the two."
Brewing is a vital part of distilling and Rogue considers it part of being a true artisan, agri-craft brewery and distillery. "Rogue Oregon Single Malt Whiskey for example, is created using 100% Rogue-grown malting barley. We plant, water, reap, thresh, harvest, micro-malt, smoke and mill all of the proprietary barley ourselves before we brew the washes at the Rogue Brewery. After fermentation, we transport the wash to the Distillery about 200 yards away and begin distilling on actual stills you can see and touch."
The best way to fully experience Rogue is still by visiting and taking the tour. "Come see, touch, taste and smell the ingredients we grown on our farms and a real, working brewery and distillery," says Joyce. "If you want to truly see where your beer and spirits come from - you can't beat it."