While all craft breweries are rebels (at least when it comes to making beer), few have embraced the rebel status quite like Rogue Ales. True to its creed to change the beer industry’s status quo, the Oregon-based brewery cranks out over two dozen different varieties of beer a year, each with its own, unique character, wacky name and artistic label. A far cry from the “variations on a theme” philosophy that you’ll find at most breweries these days. As you might expect from a brewery out on the fringes of “normalcy,” Rogue has one of the more interesting origin stories out there.
In the late ‘80s, University of Oregon frat brothers Jack Joyce and Bob Woodell together with mutual friend Rob Strasser were approached by Woodell’s accountant, Jeff Schultz, about the idea of starting a brewery. The group agreed and in the summer of 1988 began construction on a brewpub along the scenic Lithia Creek in Ashland, Oregon. It opened that fall and featured a 60-seat pub with a 10 barrel brew system in the basement that produced the Amber and Gold brews that are still made today.
As beautiful as it was, the Ashland location wasn’t exactly easy to get to and it quickly became clear it was going to struggle to make it. A few months after opening, the group dispatched Joyce to scour the Oregon country-side to find a new location.
In February of 1989, Joyce was in Newport, Oregon by the Historic Bay Front when a freak snow storm hit. Try as he might, Joyce’s truck was unable to make it up the hill out of town, so he walked the streets looking for some place to seek shelter from the storm. Local restaurateur Mohave Niemi saw him wandering down the sidewalk and took him into her popular local restaurant, Mo’s Clam Chowder. Over a hot bowl of soup, Joyce told Niemi about his quest for a new brewpub location and Niemi was intrigued. She had always wanted to live above a bar and she just so happened to own and live above a 1,100 square-foot empty store front with 800 square-foot garage. Mo agreed to lease Joyce the space at a friendly price if he met two unique stipulations: for as long as they were profitable, Rogue would have to “feed the fisherman” (her way of saying, “give back to the community”); and they would have to keep a picture of her naked in a bathtub hung over the bar at all times. Joyce agreed and in May of 1989, the second brewpub, and now home of Rogue Ales was opened.
Nearly 25 years later, Rogue continues to give back to the community of Newport and the photo of Niemi, who passed away in 1992, still hangs over the bar. As for the beer, you can find over 30 of their beers throughout the state of Ohio and Kentucky. To see their full offerings, check out our Ohio and Kentucky portfolios.
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