Craft brewing nowadays isn’t just all about the beer. It’s also about marketing. Sure, you’ve still gotta make some killer brews if you want to generate a loyal following and win lots of awards. But many times branding can be just as important, adding personality and imagery that can destine a beer for greatness.

Enter Rogue Ales’ flagship creation, Dead Guy Ale. Created back in the early 90s as a limited release to celebrate the Mayan Day of the Dead (November 1), the beer gained huge popularity because of its distinctive name and logo and really never looked back. Nowadays, it is largely synonymous with the Rogue brand, and is famously dedicated by the brewery “to the Rogue in each of us.” Even if you’ve never seen its unmistakable emblem at your local grocery or pub (a skeleton perched atop a wooden barrel), you’ve most likely heard of this beer.

And for good reason.

Dead Guy Ale is one of the most satisfying, drinkable, and flavorful session beers to come out of American craft brewing to date. Period. Over lunch this afternoon, I cracked one open for the umpteenth time and prepared to really savor it (did I just use the word “umpteenth”?). Here are my thoughts:

It pours a great golden orange color, and if you do it right you’ll have a nice one finger head for the duration of your drink (I messed up my own but got my dad’s perfect). I can catch a bit of spiciness from the hops in the nose, but it’s got an amazing sweet caramel smell that really shines and thankfully isn’t too “sticky” or “syrupy”. Don’t stick your nose in it too long, though…this beer tastes fantastic. Like toffee and caramel with an incredible crisp grapefruit bite. Again, the spiciness from the hops is there (the Saaz hops used are renowned for this)…but if you’re not a hop lover, never fear. The malts are front and center in this beer, and the hops do an excellent job of toning down their sweetness just enough. Much of Dead Guy’s greatness, especially as a session beer, also lies in the fact that it’s good at almost any temperature. Serve it ice cold on a hot summer day, and the hop bite, grapefruit splash and carbonation really shine through and refresh. Or let it warm on a cold day in January and soon you’ll be sipping a smooth, English toffee-like nectar.

Deadhead or not, serious connoisseur or craft brew novice, this beer demands your attention. Don’t let the name fool you … it’s a must try before you die.

ABV: 6.5%

Grade: A+