When someone says, “Man, that’s good chit,” it brings to mind smoke-filled cars, high school and Cheech and Chong movies. But trust me, this chit is different. The chit I’ll be talking about here has to do with one of beer’s most important ingredients: malted barley.
When a worldwide hop shortage struck in 2007, Rogue Ales Brewery of Newport, Oregon decided to take control of its destiny, leasing 200-plus acres of land to grow its own. In Rogue’s advertising they advocate starting a revolution, so it fittingly chose nearby Independence, Oregon to embark on the adventure to ensure its hop supply.
Rogue didn’t know at the time that its hippy-dippy landholding endeavour would eventually lead to beekeeping, growing three types of malt, planting orchards of cherries and hazelnuts, farming free-range chickens, and opening a bed and breakfast, a pub, a nano-brewery and an interpretive hop centre. And, most importantly for us, developing the “Chatoe” line of beers, which are brewed primarily — or in some cases exclusively — with products grown on Rogue’s farm.
Now, back to the chit. In the making of malting barley, the plant’s seed is soaked in water and then sprouted — the green rootlet, or endosperm, that cracks the barley’s husk is also known as a chit.
Rogue went old-school on their chit by floor malting, a labour of love that has almost gone the way of the dinosaur (mechanical methods are far less intensive). It’s an eight-day long, 24/7 process that includes steeping, sprouting and constantly turning and raking the wet grain. Once it’s sprouted and the chit is the right length, the seed is then kilned (malted). Though it’s not an exact equivalent, it’s helpful to think of how a coffee roaster roasts beans for colour and flavour — the barley is kilned to the right colour and taste so Rogue’s brewers have the best chit to brew with.
Rogue has trademarked three varieties of micro malted barley. “Dare” for its spring barley, “Risk” for its winter barley, and “Dream” for its rye malt. Rogue is also working with the Oregon State University in pioneering small-batch malting.
Of the many Rogue Chatoe beers available,here are the ones this writer thinks are the chit:
• Chatoe Rogue Good Chit Pilsner (5.3 per cent) — a sharp, crisp pilsner hopped with new-school Liberty hops of German heritage.
• Chatoe Rogue Single Malt Ale (5.3 per cent) — dry-as-a-bone English-styled ale that’s very hard to put down. It’s a quaffable style we don’t see often enough.
• Chatoe Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager (6.2 per cent): a play on the term “terroir,” Rogue’s Dirtoir has a Willamette Valley micro climate character for a local twist on the classic German Schwarzbier or dark lager.
Try for yourself — Bottlescrew Bill’s Pub is hosting a Rogue Beer Dinner on December 4 at 7 p.m. Chef Aaron Scherr will be pairing a five-course meal of his inventive food creations with some of Rogue’s best chit.