Rogue Ales recently teamed up with Portland’s legendary Voodoo Doughnut (the bakery that became infamous by foodie travel shows for their odd doughnut flavors) to create a limited-release beer that pays homage to Voodoo’s Bacon Maple Bar — a raised yeast doughnut topped with maple frosting and crispy bacon. Containing a baker’s dozen number of ingredients (13), the smoked malts, Applewood bacon and natural maple flavoring and are the stars in this smoked ale. The bubblegum pink bomber bottle (750 ml; $13) sports Voodoo’s signature color and logo, setting itself apart from Rogue’s typically brown bottles.
The 5.6% ABV Voodoo pours a dark amber color with a light head that dissipates fairly quickly. At first whiff, there’s a ton of smokiness with a slight hint of maple syrup. Some said their noses were hit with a huge wave of maple or have even smelled Eggo waffles and syrup, but I blame that on the power of suggestion or their preconceived expectations. This is a smoke monster and not much else comes through on the nose.
As for taste, smoke prevades due to the cherrywood and beechwood smoked malts, but the Applewood bacon comes through on the middle and it concludes with a dry, maple syrup finish that gets a bit stronger as the beer warms up. Unlike one would expect with it being inspired by a doughnut, there is no sweetness present. The carbonation is very light and Its lighter bodied and weaker on the palate than one would expect with such bold flavors. Voodoo was originally planned by Rogue brewers to be made with a porter base. I think this beer’s extreme smokiness, bacon and maple flavors would have worked better with the strong flavors of a porter backing them up, rather than a light ale.
Bacon has become fad in the food scene over the past few years and Rogue has boldly tried to take advantage of said fad. But does bacon make everything better, even beer? In this case, my stance is neutral. The bacon flavor isn’t overwhelming so I wouldn’t necessarily call this a “bacon” beer, it’s just an added note of flavor. If it were too bacon-heavy, I think it’d be less drinkable. The beermakers got it just right here as its neither too much nor too little bacon in the recipe.
Some reviewers have called it “pretty terrible,” have said it “smells like a candied ash tray,” and that it’s “a foul abomination,” I think that maybe those people are just a bit prejudiced to smoked beers. I, however, am a big fan of smoked beers (smoked anything for that matter). While I can’t say that I loved this beer, I did enjoy it. I couldn’t get through a whole bomber by myself due to the extreme smokiness, but I do think it would be better enjoyed if paired alongside food, namely a smoked meat like brisket, barbecue pulled pork, or Applewood smoked bacon. It would also pair nicely with pancakes or French toast drizzled with maple syrup. (Because who says you can’t have beer for breakfast?) And if I were in Portland, I’d even dare pairing it with its namesake doughnut.
My advice: If you aren’t opposed to smoky beer, go ahead and at least try it once before it goes off the shelves. At the very least, the bottle would make some eye-catching shelf art for any beer geek out there.