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1999: On a trip to the supermarket, an almost 16-year-old mynie tells his mom that he’s been a really good boy lately and he’d super appreciate it if she would buy him a six pack of something for his birthday. He will drink no more than one in a sitting and always under the supervision of his parents, because, hey, it’s good to develop healthy drinking habits early in life. She acquiesces, because this was years before the government started putting up those “If you buy liquor for minors you will burn in hell and your kids will become retards” billboards.

Rushing into the beer aisle, a literal kid in a near-literal candy store, our young hero was amazed by the influx of new malt products into the state, the result of a loosening of Iowa’s moronic liquor laws. There was beer with Hunter S. Thompson art on the label. Beer from Iowa. And, most strikingly, a vaguely communist-looking beer with an unappealing cartoon man drawn on the cover. Mynie stares at it for a while. His mom says it’s probably like Guinness or something, which she says tastes like worcestershire, and so he ends up with a sixer of Doc Otis.

2004: The “healthy drinking habits” bit was a ruse. Mynie would supplement the one he had around his family with frequent snorts off a magic marker, or chewing jimson weed, or playing the choking game, or doing really whatever the hell it took to get through his teenage years un-sober. By 2004, five years of near-constant illegal drug inebriation had passed. Ironically, turning the legal drinking age was about to settle down that terrifying Jon Bonham roller coaster of near-death intoxication into a nice, steady, Kathy Lee and Hoda pontoon boat ride of perpetual tipsiness.

A few weeks before turning 21, he starts reviewing beer online and is shocked to see that none of the beers he’s had—even good ones, like Heineken—are listed in the site’s top 100. A few weeks after turning 21, he exhausts his local gas station’s selection and is forced into the dark depths of the aisle across from the hard liquor.

And what was there? That weird commie beer he remembered from years before. The internet had verified that this particular brand was totally indie-tastic. (Believe it or not, several Rogues used to appear in BA’s top 100. Shakespeare stout was even in the top 40 or so—which it still should be.) And so he began reviewing Rogues and his mind was totally blown. Screen shot 2013-07-12 at 12.57.41 AM

2005-2010: Rogue at first rules over everything. On his first trip to John’s Grocery, he spends the bulk of his Christmas-time gift certificates on buying up a bomber of every variety of theirs the store has in stock. Screen shot 2013-07-12 at 12.58.48 AMThere he finds the first beer he ever considers perfect. His first good American-style lager. His first imperial stout.

He drinks his first Belgian. Scores some Three Floyds. Starts going to beer fests and doing trades. But the Rogue is a mainstay. It’s one of the small handful of non-midwestern beers found on draft in Iowa. New shit keeps coming in—some good, some nearly literally shit—but Rogue is the most reliable American brewer.

Time passes and tastes change. An influx of shitty micros causes relatively high-priced Rogue to sit on the shelf for way, way too long, and you can only buy so many pricey stale bombers before you get gunshy. The price spikes further and further, always remaining ahead of the inflationary pace of other beers, which are quickly getting way too fucking expensive.

Mynie hears about Rogue’s “meh” business practices. They were founded by a guy who used to be an executive at Nike, and Nike is fucking evil. They also began the trend towards gentrifying the beer scene, even in spite of their emptily leftist ethos. Rogue becomes harder to find after his pertinently timed move to Indiana, which just so happened to coincide with a huge influx of new, good brewers into the area. Then there’s widespread backlash against the brand. They’re not making alpha bombs or sours, not barrel aging or limited releasing anything. Really, they’re far, far too available. They release a bacon doughnut beer, and troll the beer community by pretending to release a beer aged on pages torn from Moby Dick. Screen shot 2013-07-12 at 1.04.56 AM People dismiss them as an expensive gimmick brewery, ignoring their massive importance upon the development and shape of the entire craft beer scene. And mynie basically goes along with it.

Today: Woke up this morning with a strange craving for Rogue. Any Rogue. Just—I needed to be around the bottle art for a little while, to remember the sense of measured happiness that drinking and reviewing 2 or 3 cheap, new beers used to give me. I wanted to remember my old apartment, which was warmly lit and overlooked a large cornfield where in the summer geese would gather and the sky was gigantic. Back then I had relatively little debt and my cats were young. I felt more of a sense of place in my wandering emptiness. I believed, as young people believe, that if I kept walking around that I would find some kind of fulfillment.

Remembering this time now, years later, in the way that men do when they’re feeling old but haven’t yet actually become old, I get stupid and sappy and begin regarding everything much too kindly. Things weren’t that great. They just seem precious, now, because that time is dead, because that spirit and feel will never, ever return no matter what happens or what I do.

I miss the security of knowing that Real Adulthood was still several years away. I miss the feeling of when simply existing was something to get excited about.

But do I miss Rogue? Yes. It was, and is, a strong token of that era. And, like the shitty comedies I loved so much in high school, I’ve been afraid to revisit it for fear that it would suck and its suckiness would ruin some perfectly nice memories. This Brown Ale is like Billy Madison. It’s maybe not in line with my current palette and if it came out now I wouldn’t take notice of it. But it did so much to shape my own palette, and was so inspired and unique in its own time, that it’s still excellent. (This contrasts to Flying Dog’s Road Dog, which resembles The Waterboy, meaning it has some small charm but is objectively not very good).