Monday, August 20, 2012

[A Beer a Day] Yogi Chai Spiced Amber Ale | Rogness Brewing | Austin, TX

I wouldn't presume to call myself an expert in anything beer related, and I am a total non-professional in regards to writing.  I prattle on this page for the sheer love of music and beer, in that order, so my opinions are solely those of a fan and consumer.

The last time you and I were discussing something important related to the local beer scene, we were talking about the self-mutilation of Saint Arnold's vanity project -- The Divine Reserve Series -- and the scission of achievement vs. hype in regards to special beer releases, a current phenomenon that has driven a contaminate spike between beer enthusiasts and beer trolls.

One important thing to note is that all of those sons-of-bitches who requested Tickle Me Elmos on their fifth Christmases are all of legal drinking age now, and therefore in their able-bodied, endurance-queuing brains, Demand is a verb that is commanded, not a noun that is stipulated.  From that lot, I expected to see some gnashing of the keyboard in response to my opinions about DR12.

But what I discovered is that many of you shared the same concerns about 1) the mad crush of neurosis and anxiety from procuring that beer from the shelves, and 2) the quality of the beer itself did not match that coda.  Both took quite the opposing trajectories in terms of achievement vs. hype.  As a fan and consumer, I think that this type of brewery-sponsored behavior leads to an acute case of combat fatigue from your servile customers when asking them to knuckle lesser people out of the way in pursuit of the prize.

Yes, I admit that the idea of small-batch beer is indeed exciting.  The notion of something hand-crafted with special ingredients, treated carefully with expertise and style and controlled flare, then delivered to a modest sanctuary in your city until you are available for pick-up is quixotic poetry.  And sure, rarity adds incredible appeal and personal value because, well, that is part of our self-satisfying, peer-affirming human nature.

It is my belief that there is a brewhouse living up to the challenges of this production/consumer philosophy in the correct, elective way.  Their name is Rogness Brewing.

And while Saint Arnold is Texas' largest and oldest production microbrewery, Rogness might very well be Texas' smallest and newest -- making the execution of this project all the more impressive.

Rogness Brewing is the progeny of the same Rognesses responsible for the rebirth of Austin Homebrew Supply.  If you've ever visited their retail shop, you would notice that despite being a strangely neckbearded niche culture and total sausagefest, the folks there make brewing an accessible hobby for novices and future Fritz Maytags, especially in the case of one extremely local homebrewer, my wife.

So, one recent Friday night, Mrs. [AA] and I decided to dabble in a little light, West Coast 90s gagsta rap on the porch and open several bombers purchased earlier in the evening from one of our favorite bottle shops in the city; Friday's being New Bombers Night, and the next day being Mr. Gorbachev, Open This Cellar Saturdays at the [An Avenue] household.

I admit that other beer nerds do not tend to see amber ales through my eyes.  The other week, I even attempted a microbloggin' 140 character persuasive essay to unconverted amber ale dissenters on Twitter.  Maybe my love stems from growing up with Dr Pepper intravenously injected through my circulatory system, and the amorous affinity comes from the constant drip of caramel-flavored drugs.  Amber ales are like my current version of adult Daddy Pepper crank.

I will say this about purchasing Rogness at the premium booze outlet: It was not my first choice.  And being further candid, it was not my second or third choices either.  When I ran out of options for additional large-format bottles that both piqued my interest and agreed with my price point, I kind-of begrudgingly picked up Yogi as a final resort.  Why?  I'm not exactly sure why.  In the past, I enjoyed the hell out of their Ost Porter during trivia night and likewise their polarizing Rook Scotch Ale.

But there is the rub for small brewers -- the need for extensive conditioning of your audience's frontal cortex, prompting that your product should be immediately recognized as a great beer.  The Big Boys at MillerBudCoors brow beat us with amusing campaigns that imply these notions of satisfying beer, and many take that bait --  however, without a multi-million dollar budget to blow on hookers, coke, and ad space, small brewers rely on the bottles packaging to look like the hottest pledge at a Chi O rush and then really impress us with what is behind the label later on.

My hesitation, I think, was two-fold.  One -- and it says right on the bottle -- 'Hand Crafted Small Batch Beer', which if you've been paying attention to this article is skillfully coded language for limited bottle runs and fistwads of loot.  Second, Rogness' beer philosophies are variant when it comes to beer style.  Unlike a recent trend in Austin brewers like South Austin Brewing and Adelbert's to focus on a provincial style, they are targeting all kinds of beer -- something American micros have traditionally done, but are lately going away from this method in favor of insular styles.  Sometimes conjugate breweries like Rogness can do lots of things good, but nothing necessarily great.

So, after handing over my seven quid to the shopkeep, I felt things were leading in the right direction based on value thus far.  That is a remarkably scant fee for craft beer, particularly small batch craft beer, and so I motored home feeling pretty cheeky about that whole transaction.

From the onset, my wife and I were immediately impressed with Yogi.  It was the same reaction one gets when his Secret Santa ends up not being a total fuckwit, and appears to have actually listened to your very interesting thoughts and interests during those tedious lunch hours and staff parties -- and here you are opening up something genuinely relevant and thoughtful.   This was my reaction to Yogi: genuinely relevant and thoughtful; Rogness just extreme Secret Santa'd us, those sonsa-bitches.  Now I'm embarrassed about my measly return-gift.  Motherfuckers said the limit was $7.

It is a very obvious connotation, but Yogi tastes just like Thanksgiving -- and in these parts, Thanksgiving is the crux of our year -- Texas football, family, friends, gorging on delicious meats, and more football.  This beer is analogous to all of that and it reflects the flavors of fall, as if the brewers found a method to bundle up the tablecloth and wring it out into a single vessel.  This beer is just good for our cultural souls.

Yogi cleverly imparts a beautifully blended caldron of spices, indicated on the bottle as Saigon cinnamon, ginger, clove, cardamom, and black pepper. Though heavy-handed in verbiage, it drinks deftly, like a chai latte.  Its a very festive beer, and my ultimate impression is that Yogi is an amicably priced, medium powered, and delicious reason to give thanks.

ABV: 5.2%
Acquired: Sunrise
Musical Pairing: Dr. Dre | The Chronic (1992)

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