Sometimes a second opinion is needed after first impressions leave me undecided about the merits of a brewpub’s food or its brews – especially if I’m left thinking it might be one of the best of the bunch. Such was the case regarding Issaquah Brewhouse, Rogue Ales‘ outpost in Washington.
This time I wanted to return with spouse and daughter for dinner: I sensed the boss would enjoy the place, and it gave us the opportunty to double up on beer samples: sampling more Rogue offerings, and to dine on more elaborate fare from the menu – measuring the quality of their entrees versus their sandwiches.
In my first Issaquah Brewhouse post I described it as a seat yourself place; this time, visiting during peak dining on a Friday evening, I learned that they have a wait to be seated policy for their busiest times.
For our beer samplers we selected 50/50 Issaquah and Rogue ales. Some of them being year-round brews, along with some seasonals and specials. I must say I was much more impressed with Rogue’s brews this time around. Both spouse and I found it difficult to pick a favorite from our combined 7 different selections. But on reflection I believe spouse would choose Mogul Madness Ale; however I’m still torn between the Mogul and Rogue’s flagship Dead Guy Ale. Rogue describes Dead Guy Ale as “In the style of a German Maibock” which I find kinda odd. To me, at least on tap, it’s one of the closest examples of a English style pub best bitter I have had this side of the pond.
True, Dead Guy does contain German-style malt and hops, but that’s where the Teutonic character ends IMHO. This brew is a top-fermented ale, in the English style, while Maibocks are bottom-fermented lagers. Maibocks are also generally less ‘hoppy’ (up to 35 IBUs) whereas English best bitter is typically right where Dead Guy is – 40 IBUs. The only difference I could taste: English best bitters are usually intended as session ales – less than 5% ABV – Dead Guy is more of a lay you on your back kinda brew at 6.5%.
Mogul Madness is Rogue’s winter seasonal ale; it was the best thing we tasted apart from Dead Guy. By way of comparison, I have so far sampled three winter seasonals from different breweries and Rogue’s Mogul Madness is easily the best.
The others are Maritime’s Jolly Roger and Pyramid’s Snow Cap – both too dark malty and not sufficiently hoppy for my liking. Both brewers’ year-round porters are better I feel than their winter seasonals – a shame. Hopefully I’ll have time and opportunity to try some more winter ales before the season moves on.
So, back to Issaquah Brewhouse: our food was great. Spouse had the pan-fried Coho Salmon with Marionberry chutney, pearled barley, & seasonal veggies. I had the Chipotle Chicken Pasta in spicy Chiptle Ale cream sauce. Daughter had a plain hamburger & fries. Not the fancy Kobe, just regular. It’s so easy to mess up a hamburger – they didn’t, and the Rogue fries are very good too.
Verdict – six thumbs up. Issaquah: Rogue may be the only game in town, and I still think they’re the Ben & Jerry’s of beer, but we think you should count yourselves lucky to have them – after all Ben & Jerry’s makes awfully good ice cream. And in their investment in Issaquah, Rogue is keeping a small local brewery alive, including their exclusive Frog brews – it’s absolutely worth the trip!
Take the Sound Transit 554 express bus from downtown Seattle, Mercer Island, or Eastgate Freeway station – get off in downtown Issaquah (not the park & ride). Runs every 30 minutes most of the time, more frequently during peak afternoon commute.