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Rogue's Dad's Little Helper

by Matt O'Connor

My usual routine for these reviews is simple: walk into a neighborhood liquor store and pick something I've never had before. Luckily, I have about three or four reliable stores with excellent selections near my apartment. It's to the point where I could write a column on something new for years, which I imagine would please my editor [Ed. Note: yuh-huh]. I picked today's beer because it had a cool label, a good-natured name, and relatively timely significance: Rogue's Dad's Little Helper Black IPA. This is the second in the Dad's Helper series (the first was a malt liquor style) and it is appropriate for June, the month of Father's Day. The bottle even pays a nice homage to the history of Father's Day:

After the death of his wife, Henry Jackson Smart was left to raise his 6 young children alone. His courage, love, selflessness and dedication inspired his daughter, Sonora Smart Dodd, to organize the first Father’s Day on June 19th, 1910. In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. President Nixon, in 1972, established it as a permanent day of national observance.

So, let's raise a glass and celebrate this beer hailing from the Beaver State, otherwise known as Oregon. Sorry, the twelve year-old in me couldn't resist that factoid.

Now, there are a few things I know about Oregon. First, I do know that it's pronounced more like "organ" and less like "or-a-gone." I remember being a freshman at BU and having a kid tell me he needed a new health insurance policy for college because his was an Oregon plan … except I heard “organ” plan. Somehow I pictured a health policy that covered your heart and lungs, but if you had a broken leg, tough luck, you had to walk it off. So what, it took until I was eighteen to realize that my childhood of playing Or-a-gone Trail was a lie. Second – and more importantly – Oregonians love their craft beer. In a 2010 tally of breweries done by the Brewer's Association, the alliance that represents the interests of craft brewers nation-wide, Oregon was the second-highest in terms of breweries per capita, behind only Vermont. Oregon was also third in terms of overall number of breweries, with 121, behind California (245) and Washington state (123). Besides Rogue, some other Oregon brewers you might know include Widmer Brothers, Full Sail, and Deschutes.

Rogue is among the elder statesmen of craft beers. Like many of its cousins founded around the same time, it sprung from an idea to a reality through the use of a brewpub. The brewpub is a great model for new beer brewers: it allows you to open a restaurant and sell food to finance your beer. If the food happens to be delicious food, that’s even better. Rogue's brewpub opened in 1988 in Ashland, Oregon and today they have facilities in the Oregon cities of Newport and Portland as well. Rogue might be the best-known of all brewers that hail from this Pacific Northwest state. Rogue’s most famous beer, at least in my opinion, is Dead Guy Ale. Who doesn't want to walk into a bar and order a "rogue dead guy?" The Dead Guy Ale is a rich amber ale, that I also highly recommend, but for today I'm trying something new.

Today's beer is Dad's Little Helper Black IPA. Walking through a beer aisle nowadays, it is impossible to not see a few black IPAs. In some surely satanic cabal craft brewers everywhere said, "let's take a strong black ale and throw a ton of hops in there and call it an IPA!" Maybe it was a result of less sinister planning, but I have my doubts. Regardless, the style is pretty tasty. Some common examples are: Unita Dubhe (Salt Lake City, UT), Clown Shoes Hoppy Feet (Ipswich, MA), and Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale (Escondido, CA).

This beer pours dark, near black, with brown highlights on the edges. It has a huge rocky head of bubbles, which makes it look like some sort of evil root beer float. The smell on this thing is pure hybrid: part dark porter, part India pale ale. You get the cedar wood smell with dark malts just as the hops come in with a big wallop of pine. The taste is equally as complex; you’re first hit with a coffee-chocolate taste, just like you would get in a stout or porter, derived from the beer's roasted malts. Next, you’re hit with the wave of mouth bitterness. The finish is on the thinner side, with a strong roasted coffee presence. To be honest, this is not the best example of a black IPA I’ve ever had. This seems like it’s trying too hard to be too much. Maybe this is the beer that proves a black IPA is a hybrid taken too far? The black ale notes seem to clash too much with the bittering hops. This is still a good beer; I just wouldn’t grab for more than one in a while. Grade: B


Rogue Dad's Little Helper

Style: American Black IPA

ABV: 7.0%


Also Try:

Allies Win the War, 21st Amendment Brewery (San Francisco, CA). Features cool can art on all their offerings. This is an English-style strong ale (8.5% ABV) brewed with date fruit puree. This beer has a great nutty, brown sugar aroma mixed with a sweet and creamy mouth feel. This is a sipper, but not in a bad way. Drinking this in the cold of winter would be just what Uncle Sam would demand. Grade: A

Mean Old Tom, Maine Beer Company (Portland, ME). I can't get enough of these guys. Tiny little brewery in Portland that churns out good stuff. This stout aged on vanilla beans isn't as strong as their Lunch or Zoe offerings, but I wouldn't turn down a glass. Grade: B+

Maibock Lager, Berkshire Brewing Company (South Deerfield, MA). I don't drink BBC enough. This Maibock is a German style strong (6.5% ABV), malty lager with just the right amount of rich sweetness and hop aroma. This is their spring seasonal, but look for Steel Rail Pale Ale, Gold Spike Kolsch, or Coffeehouse Porter as year-round offerings that I also recommend. Grade: A-

Image courtesy of the author


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Matt O’Connor lives in Boston and is a proud graduate of Boston University. Explore beer with him as he quits his job in the sciences and starts law school. Send any requests, beer, or job offers to him at: matt.oconnor[at]