Brew Blog: Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale

I needed a break after last week's Brew Blog. It's not that I don't love darker, heavier beer, it's just that I drank quite a bit of the stuff last week. So I went in search of the lightest, most easy-drinking beer I thought I could swing without earning eternal derision from you fine folk. Just kidding, you guys are great. You didn't even give me shit for sort of liking that Walgreen's beer.

At any rate, what I wound up with was Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale. Soba is a square-shaped noodle made out of buckwheat flour. It has a light tan-to-purplish tint and a tender texture due to its lack of gluten, the protein responsible for the "chew" of wheat-based noodles and doughs. Buckwheat also has a stronger, nuttier flavor than wheat, and this quality shows through in the beer.

I was half expecting the beer to have an odd, purplish tint from the inclusion of toasted soba, but it had a medium gold tone, instead. Lots of tiny bubbles propelled the beer upward into a one-inch, foamy head that subsided to a thin cap. The carbonation stuck around, keeping the cap replenished and leaving somewhat thick lacing.

Clean grains with a nutty, slightly sweet profile dominate the aroma. It doesn't smell quite like soba tastes, but the nuttiness definitely shows through. Cashews come to mind, owing partially to the vaguely buttery notes wafting from the glass. I know butter almost always means diacetyl, and is generally considered a defect in most styles, but it works here.

It took me a while to decide what this one tasted like. I still think I'm missing something. Every sip I take gives me that ineffable feeling that I've tasted this before in another guise; alcoholic déjà vu. It's nutty and savory, with a creamy mouthfeel (that diacetyl, again). It comes on light and crisp, the effervescence lending it an airiness, then turns savory and mouth-filling with a buttery richness. Those buttery qualities mix with very slight bitterness and some citrus and spice, to make for a flavor that tastes almost saucy, like something one might put on soba. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm going to try making a soba dressing incorporating this ale. Maybe mix it with a little dashi, some sweetened soy sauce. . .

Sorry, I was day-dreaming about my dinner. Anyway, this beer did exactly what I needed it to, even while it took me by surprise with an unexpected complexity. Buy it, drink it with something grilled, or something cold. Hell, do both. Grill some fish, chill it, then serve it with a dish of cold soba and tsuyu dipping sauce. That's exactly what I'm going to do.

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Nicholas L. Hall is a husband and father who earns his keep playing a video game that controls the U.S. power grid. He also writes for the Houston Press about food, booze and music, in an attempt to keep the demons at bay. When he's not busy keeping your lights on, he can usually be found making various messes in the kitchen, with apologies to his wife.
Contact: Nicholas L. Hall