A couple weeks ago, I was taking a friend on the nickel tour of the Bier Baron and came across an old bottle of Rogue Charlie 1981. For those of you that don’t know, this is a pretty special beer.

It was first brewed in 2001 for the National Craft Brewers Conference.  Although Rogue made subsequent batches, the first batch was never distributed.  The bottles we have are from this first batch. They’ve got a commemoration on them with the date April 4 – 7, 2001 and what appears to be a handwritten signature by John Maier, Rogue Brew Master, dated 19 June ’01.

The beer commemorates the first batch of beer brewed by John Maier in 1981 using a recipe from the “Complete Joy of Homebrewing” by Charlie Papazian–the Godfather of American homebrewing. Hence the name, Charlie 1981.

I felt a little guilty when I cracked one open. There can’t be too many of these left out there.  (Don’t worry. We still have a few more bottles!) It pours a deep orange color.  The label describes an “intense, piney, hop aroma” that comes from massive dry-hopping with Amarillo.  After 11 years in the cellar, the hop aroma is obviously dissipated quite a bit. Instead there’s an intense caramel and butterscotch aroma with a hint of that oxidized cardboard smell that so many beers this old have. The taste is similar, lots of sweet caramel and butterscotch.  There is also a flavor of tea leaves and some residual bitterness in the finish.  All in all a pretty good beer! I feel lucky to have gotten a chance to try it.