Tap This: Move over hops, coffee is the new flavor on scene
The craft beer movement has brought forth a wide array of ingredients previously overlooked as possibilities within beer. Many of these ingredients are new and exciting and forever pushing the definition of beer. One ingredient has been viewed as a perfect addition — coffee.
While coffee as an ingredient is not traditional in a historic sense, the aromas and taste are very traditional. The stout style has a long and storied tradition and the roasted malts used in the beer inherently have notes of coffee throughout from the roasting process.
There are a variety of ways to add coffee to beer. Each adds a subtle difference in how the coffee is perceived. Coffee beans can be added whole or ground as the most standard manner and cold brewed coffee can be used, which imparts a smoother coffee taste.
Brewers continue to expand the stout style and have added coffee to a wide array of beer styles from porters to Belgian ales to IPAs. Regardless of the style, when done well, coffee is a great addition to any beer.
If you are a coffee fanatic, do yourself a favor and grab some great coffee beers. Here is a short list of some great beers available.
Elysian Brewing Company’s Split Shot Espresso Milk Stout: This 5.6 % ABV sweet stout delivers big on flavor. The rich sweet and creamy lactose is perfect with the big hits of coffee that abound within for a beer that is highly enjoyable. The sweetness is also kept in perfect harmony from the coffee which makes this a beer you can go to again and again without worry of the palate becoming overly sweetened.
Carton Brewing Company’s Regular Coffee: While a bit harder to find because it’s brewed annual and released to waiting fans, this 12 % ABV cream ale is one of the best beers you will enjoy. The beer is meant to replicate coffee with cream and sugar and it does so with gusto. Just keep in mind the high ABV, otherwise this will be one coffee that does not invigorate but puts you to sleep.
Ballast Point Brewing Company’s Victory at Sea: This 10 % ABV imperial porter features a heaping dose of coffee with whole vanilla beans. The result is a beer that tastes like a decadently smooth and rich vanilla coffee. The 10 % ABV is extremely hidden while the coffee flavors are front and center. The coffee is also extremely rich and smooth without any strong bitterness. This is also a surprisingly approachable beer despite the high ABV, so if you are a fan of vanilla flavored coffee in the morning seek this beer out regardless of your craft beer credentials
Funky Buddha Brewery’s Maple Bacon Coffee Porter: No, that was not a misprint, you read correctly, Maple Bacon Coffee Porter. This smooth porter has aggressive coffee notes matched with sweet maple and smokey bacon, making for a perfect breakfast beer. The smokey bacon notes are not overly aggressive and instead fit perfectly between the sweet maple and coffee.
Lagunitas Brewing Company’s High West-ified Imperial Coffee Stout: At 12.2% ABV this is the biggest and most impactful beer on the list. This is not a beer for the timid or uninitiated to barrel-aged beers; the flavors are aggressive. The imperial stout is brewed with coffee and then aged in Rye Whiskey barrels to ramp up the ABV. Impactful notes of coffee, rich milk chocolate, vanilla, toasted coconut, dark fruits, raisins and touches of bourbon abound within the beer. The flavors are deep and wide but mesh perfectly together for a beer that is great for sipping after a long day at work.
Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer and beer historian. Derek can be heard weekly on the Beer Geeks Radio Hour at noon on Sundays on WILK 103.1 FM with past episodes available on iTunes.