In 2015, Oregon’s Rogue acquired a bunch of WWII-era coopering equipment and started making their own barrels, thus allowing them to claim the title of the only farm-brewery-distillery-cooperage in the country. The cooperage, called Rolling Thunder Barrel Works, was used to make barrels for their new line of whiskeys, and it wasn’t going to be long before a beer found its way into some of them. In 2016, Rogue introduced the first Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout aged in used Rolling Thunder barrels that once held their Dead Guy Whiskey. Previous releases have included the addition of cherries or raspberries, but for 2019 they skipped the fruit and let the whiskey barrel contribute all of the additional flavor. Let’s dig in!
Rolling Thunder is a thick pour, like maple syrup, with a dark molasses hue and considerable chocolaty head. On the nose, it’s softer than your average barrel-aged stout. There’s minimal alcohol, and the typical thick vanilla notes are lighter, more along the lines of sweet cream. There’s really no big aroma here at all, just a healthy dusting of roasted malts, smoke, and some Hershey’s chocolate bar. On the palate, it’s a different story. Big toasted cereal notes arrive hard and fast and slightly bitter, turning to dark roasted coffee and chicory. Still, the barrel influence is minimal with only a touch of vanilla bean and some oaky astringency. The finish is long and creamy with campfire smoke, black licorice, and a faint plum note. Dead Guy Whiskey isn’t exactly a big whiskey, but I would’ve expected a little more of it to come through after nine months of barrel aging.
12.8 % abv.
B+ / $12 (per 500ml bottle) / rogue.com