No More Pinot Envy
We were first.
A century before oenophiles were chasing their pinot dreams in the Willamette Valley, pioneer farmers were growing hops. They found a magical combination of rich soil, moderate temperatures and the perfect balance of sun and rain that made this land the hops growing capital of the world. The annual harvest was the biggest event in all of Oregon. Tens of thousands of Oregonians descended upon the small town of Independence to pick hops during the day and party at night. Willamette Valley hop growers prospered despite two World Wars, Prohibition and the Great Depression. But somewhere in the late 20th century Oregon’s hops heritage was lost. Vintners planted their vines, built their tasting rooms and laid claim to the terroir of the Willamette Valley. And to their credit, they did a better job of sharing their stories. But no more.
No More Pinot Envy. Talk Dirtoir.
In 2008, we became farmers. Rogue built a 42-acre hopyard on a wide bend of the Willamette River near Independence – the historic Hops Capital of the World. This year we’ll harvest 64,700 pounds of Alluvial, Freedom, Independent, Liberty, Rebel, Revolution, and Yaquina varieties of hops in the Wigrich Appellation. The hop cones are picked, kilned, cooled and baled right on the farm and shipped to our brewery in Newport. In the rain shadow of Mt. Hood we planted barley. Nearly 200 acres in the Tygh Valley appellation will produce more than 900,000 pounds of Risk™ winter malting barley and Dare™ spring malting barley. We built a Farmstead Malt House where we hand craft our own artisan small batch floor malts and micro malts a mere 200 steps from where the barley was grown. We know where our hops and barley come from. We know the soil, the temperature and how much rain and sun they receive. We know when and how they were planted, cared for, harvested and processed. The beer from our farms will be 1st Growth, Estate Hopped, Estate Barleyed, Estate Brewed and Estate Bottled. From now on we’ll talk about Dirtoir, not Terroir.
Beer begins in the dirt.
It starts in the soil where barley roots and hop bines draw moisture and nutrients. It begins in the Cascades and Coast Range as creeks rush over gravelly bottoms where salmon and steelhead spawn.
The right climate encourages healthy crops and clear, cold water. Barley and hops need a certain amount – and timing – of rain, sun, warm summers and cool winters to thrive. Streams need to be refreshed with rainfall and snowmelt or they become stagnant and stale.
Making that dirt and climate takes time.
Over hundreds of millions of years ago, the North American continent began its slow creep westward. The moving tectonic plate scraped sediments, underwater ridges and volcanic islands from the ocean floor. It built a huge pile of dirt that became the Coast Range. The movement spawned massive volcanic eruptions that uplifted the Cascades and smothered much of Oregon with hot, molten lava. Huge ice age floods drowned the Willamette Valley for thousands of years and deposited layers of rich, volcanic soils that are hundreds of feet thick. So when you open a bottle of Rogue you taste more than just the barley, hops and water. You taste the results of millions of years of geologic forces and history that are unique to the place where hops and barley are grown and where the water comes from.
This “Taste of Place” is what we call Terroir.
Luckily for Rogue, Oregon has everything we need to grow our own. There’s a reason why Rogue grows hops in the Willamette Valley. The rain shadow of the Coast Range, ice age volcanic soils and its position along the 45th parallel have made the valley one of the most important hops growing regions in the world for more than a century.
There’s a reason why Rogue grows barley near Tygh Valley. The rain shadow of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens and loess volcanic topsoil is why this region is the most productive in Oregon for cereal grains, such as barley and wheat. And there’s a reason why Rogue gets the water to malt the barley, brew beer and distill spirits from the free flowing streams of the Coast Range and Cascades. These are some of the purest, most natural sources of water anywhere. The final element of terroir is personality. No one else can make Rogue Ales or Spirits. Not even if they had the same ingredients from the same places. Rogue’s personality is unique and you can taste it in the beer. Rogue and Oregon have the right combination of dirt, climate, water and personality. A terroir superfecta that’s impossible to duplicate.