Beer: Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Banana Ale Brewery: Rogue Ales Style: Fruit/Vegetable Beer ABV: 5.3 percent
It's apparent at this point that the Rogue/Voodoo Doughnut collaboration ales are going to be a love/hate deal. When the Pepto-pink bottles of Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale first appeared on shelves in November 2011, the lines were drawn. "It's smoky and sickly-sweet and gross!" cried one half. "It tastes like a maple-dipped bacon-coated dream!" shouted the other. With this first beer, I firmly planted my flag with those who thought it tasty.
This second effort, however -- not so much. I'm switching sides.
The Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Banana Ale was crafted to match Voodoo's "Memphis Mafia" doughnut -- a crazy-rich treat that features fried dough cooked with banana chunks and cinnamon covered in a glaze of chocolate frosting, peanut butter, peanuts and chocolate chips. The name Memphis Mafia is a nod to the entourage of one Elvis Presley, whose favorite snack was peanut butter and banana sandwiches. It's a very tasty donut.
The problem is that translating the flavor of bananas into a beer gets tricky. Hop bitterness doesn't play nicely with the fruit's natural sugars, and most banana-flavored additives are noticeably artificial, making the drink taste like banana Runts (which are OBVIOUSLY the worst of the Runts). Both of these problems are apparent in Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Banana Ale.
When the Hershey-bar-brown beer is sniffed directly from the bottle, cocoa dominates the aroma, and beautiful hot chocolate blends with hints of peanuts and roast. In a glass with some head, however, banana is the leader. It's very sweet, overpowering more subtle toes of chocolate and biscuits.
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The front of the flavor is all banana Runts -- crushed, dusty, artificial. Multiple search parties are sent out to find any trace of chocolate or peanut butter flavors, but they all come back empty-handed. Untamed bitterness sweeps in upon the swallow, settling into the back of the tongue with acrid and unfortunate strength. The dissonance between the banana sweetness and the hefty bitterness is jarring. neither the lingering flavors of toast and peanut skins nor the dry finish can do much to deter the bitter bite.
Palates are obviously different, and beer drinkers will not always agree. I'll still fight ferociously to defend the flavor of the Maple Bacon Ale. But if you decide after tasting this particular Rogue Voodoo Doughnut beer that you hate this one too, you've got an ally in me.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.