Rogue Brewing Co – John John Dead Guy Ale

This past weekend I had the joy of having my two siblings visit me in Washington DC.  As we grow older we continue to move in different directions.  The most distinct way in which we have moved apart is physical.  After I graduated college I followed the only teaching position that would hire a teacher fresh out of college down in Washington DC.  Being the oldest, I was the first to move away.  My brother shortly thereafter graduated from college, joined the Coast Guard, and is now stationed out in Astoria Oregon.  My sister still lives at home, but she is one year away from finishing her graduate program for physical therapy.  It’s actually rare we are all in the same room, but we manage to get together every once in a while.  Being that my brother lives on the west coast, I coaxed him into bringing a few bottles of beer I wouldn’t be able to find on the east coast.  Reviews will all be coming shortly, but he brought a bottle from Ninkasi, Pyramid (which I think we might be able to find), and this bottle from Rogue.  We do get Rogue over here, but he told me this bottle was rare, so I had him bring it with him.

I don’t think I’m far off from being accurate when I say that Rogue is most known for their Dead Guy Ale.  It was the first beer from Rogue I ever had, and I see it most commonly if a bar carries their stuff.  What is unique about this bottle is that it is part of their John John series.  Surprisingly, the Rogue site doesn’t really give a lot of information on the John John series.  What I discovered was that John John represents the first names of Rogue Brewmaster John Maier and Rogue Spirits Master Distiller John Couchot.  Their names are significant because these beers utilize both of their skills and talents to create its contents.  In the case of John John Dead Guy, they have taken the normal Dead Guy ale and aged it in whiskey barrels.  Unlike a lot of cases with other breweries, Rogue doesn’t have to go anywhere else to get their whiskey barrels.  They not only brew their own beer, but they also distill their own spirits as well.  Thus, both of these Johns are very important to the process of really creating any John John beer.

When I think of anything barrel aged, I automatically picture it pouring out a dark black or brown color.  Perhaps it is because a lot of the things put into barrels ends up being stouts and darker beers.  This beer, on the other hand, pours out a surprisingly light orange color.  There is a chance that this is the most surprised I’ve ever been when pouring out a beer.  There is some really light white head that develops on top of the glass.  It has a very hazy quality to it for sure, but you can occasionally see a little light carbonation in the glass as well.  You do get some really light lacing and a little bit of very slight sticky lacing as well.

The aroma of the beer is nearly as surprising as the color I experienced.  Once again, I am used to beer that comes out of aging to have a certain smell to it.  You can typically sense the aging in the nose somewhere, but it really doesn’t seem like it’s there at all.  You get a little light boozy scent to it.  I guess maybe this is the closest to the barrel aging coming through.  Citrus may be the biggest note that comes out of the aroma at all, but the scents just really aren’t there.  John, previous reviewer here, said how he was looking for a distinct quality but the beer seemed to lack a specific personality at all.

Although being disappointed thus far, I was hoping to be blown away by the surprising flavors.  Unfortunately it just didn’t seem to happen that way.  Unlike most barrel aged beers, this one came out really clean and crisp.  There are some well-balanced sweet malts at the start of the flavor.  This leads into some ample citrus flavors that end up being the most dominant characteristic of the entire beer.  I might be reaching for it, but I get a slight booze flavor following the citrus.  It’s so slight that it’s really hard to find.  There is a very minor hit of hops and a little light boozy whiskey on the end.

Just like with the flavors, the mouth tends to be really crisp and clean.  There is a lot of ample carbonation here with no off characteristics.  The citrusy flavor is really good, but it just feels like it is missing something.

I had a hard time writing this one about what I tasted; instead, I felt like I kept landing on what I felt like this one was missing.  Maybe the idea of barrel aging something has created expectations, and they really weren’t meant here.  I was gearing up for a big bold beer, and I didn’t get it.  I really struggled with try ing to give this beer at least a C; however, I have to stay true to the grading guidelines.  I may have to see if I can find another one in the John John series to see if I like it more.

Teacher Grade: D



  1. This is one of my favorite beers from Rogue.

    • I think this just proves the old adage, “different strokes for different folks”. I was thinking I may have appreciated this more if I did it side by side with the Dead Guy original. It’s been a while since I had it, so I may just need to have Dead Guy soon while I can remember the taste of this one.

  2. For my money, the John John Hazelnut which is the Hazelnut nectar aged in hazelnut rum barrels and John John Juniper, juniper ale aged in spruce gin barrels are the best in this series.

  3. That’s a bummer. I thought a nice subtle whiskey barrel treatment on Dead Guy would actually do it some good. I haven’t had it in a long time, but as I remember it, it seems it would be a good candidate. Perhaps not.

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