Rogue Revisited

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.

My first visit, with my daughter last month, was limited to 4 samples (2 Issaquah, 2 Rogue), and a lunch sandwich.

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.


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