The Art of Novelty: Rogue’s Bacon Maple Porter

The craft-beer world is an interesting place, with various brewmasters trying to find the next big thing. It seems that the scamps at Rogue ale are going to brand themselves with cult Doughnut-house Voodoo Doughnut, and release something called Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Porter.

At first the idea sounds comical, due to the paring with Voodoo Doughnut, and the name of the beer makes it sound as if the beer will taste of the breakfast pastry. And in looking at the ingredients it well might.

The ingredient list from their full label:

Great Western 2 Row,
Maple syrup,
apple smoked bacon,
vanilla beans,
vanilla extract
Pacman yeast,
Free range coastal water.

(I can’t ignore the “Free range coastal” descriptors in front of the “water” entry, because…sheesh…it reeks of made-up marketing terms).

What’s difficult to tell is if this release is a novelty release, with them trying to leverage both Voodoo’s cult status and the(now two year passed due) Internet’s passion for all things bacon. Sure, sure, the folks at Rogue will tell you it’s a serious release, but I’m not sure if the world is ready for a bacon porter, at least not to the point where they buy it often enough to encourage Rogue to make enough supply to meet the demand. Add to the fact that this isn’t simple a maple bacon porter, it’s a maple porter with a hint of cupcake.

This is the thing about novelty releases – It’s difficult to take them that seriously.

It’s possible that I’m not reading the winds that correctly, and perhaps the beer will have demand enough for several runs over the course of the next year. This is why I’m a writer, and not in the business game. But I do want to celebrate the Rogue is doing this at all, even if it fails miserably. I adore the novel. I love companies that take risks, and introduce new and different flavors into the mainstream. This is how our collective palate changes over the course of a generation or so. Twenty years ago, Pumpkin Ales were novel as well, and now they are a season standby for many breweries. Perhaps in twenty years, cupcake beers will be all the rage. I doubt it, but who knows what the future might bring.

More than anything else, what novelty releases do is alert the rest of us of what is possible, from a product stand point. In the hands of a master brewer, bacon/maple/cupcake flavored beer let’s us know that brewing can do far more than what the BJCP recognizes. A chocolatier who makes a Marmite truffle does the same exact thing, as does a cheesemonger who adds jerk seasoning to its cheddar. It’s innovation for the fun of it. Sometimes it pays off, and sometimes it fails miserably. But success and failures are beside the point. In the end, if you pull aside the biases and salesmanship of these folks, I’m willing to bet that if you asked them why they initially made these products, you’ll get an answer similar to that of “To see if I could.”

Such curiosity needs to be lauded and encouraged, by trying out their creations and seeing if they work. I’m going to try to get my hands on this porter for exactly that reason.

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