Another Uppers & Downers Chicago week is upon us, and we couldn’t be more pumped to taste some exquisite coffees and beers. This week, we asked the Fervent Few what they think about breweries partnering with particular roasters or using specific coffee beans. We also asked them to nominate the best coffee beer they’ve had that’s not a Stout.
Steve Rimington: “Siren Craft Brew released a range of four coffee beers last year as part of their Project Barista, which were showcased at the U.K. Uppers & Downers. Star of the show in my view was CapHeine, a Coffee Sour with hibiscus. It certainly broke any assumptions I may have had about what a coffee beer should taste like!”
Matthew Modica: “I have been in beer for a long time. Nothing lit a fire in me more than when Aleman Brewing Company won a homebrew competition with their Coffee Double IPA. When the homebrew version of it was presented to me I was immediately angry that it even existed. And then I drank it. It was hands down one of the most thoughtful adjunct beers I’d had in a very long time. I was lucky enough to join them in California to be a part of the collaborative brew day at Stone with Two Brothers in tow. Dayman IPA will always be one of the best, if not the best, coffee beers I’ve ever had.”
Rob Steuart: “My favorite was a completely accidental brew by Rocky Ridge Brewing Co. It was a version of their Golden Ale with coffee called White Buffalo—it picked up a super clean Lactobacillus strain in the ferment, and they then called it Sour Buffalo. The rounded, roasted notes from the coffee played well with the bright acidity from the Lactobacillus, and there was still enough malty character to carry the whole thing. My student has since supplied them back the Lacto strain, and they are now using it commercially. Speaking to one of the guys from the brewery last week, they are going to stop all kettle-soured beers and move to just adding this strain in at ferment for any new sour releases.”
Lana Svitankova: “I'm always kinda wary about coffee beers, because they give me this green-bell-pepper flavor pretty often, and I'm not a fan of that. But from my experience it heavily depends on coffee quality, so there’s less chance of getting it from high-quality beans. So yes, when I hear that a local roaster is involved, I'm more inclined to give it a try.
I'm more drawn to unexpected coffee beers, and I loved the Brewery Bhavana Single-Origin Saison—it was exquisite. I'm also really proud of our beer: we've done as collab with a local roaster. It was a beer version of their own “flat red” coffee (which uses pomegranate and orange juice instead of milk), based on our Red Brut IPA. It sounds strange, I know, but it was a beautiful marriage of coffee, fresh juice, and beer. We got the harmony right.”
Amy: “The most recent interesting coffee beer I had that wasn’t a Stout was Belitina Saison from Stormcloud Brewing Company. It is a “Saison Noir” featuring three different preparations of coffee: green coffee beans, light-roast coffee beans, and espresso shots. It was brewed as part of the brewery’s annual film and beer series, and was paired with the film Caffè, a movie that features coffee and takes place in Belgium, Italy, and China. “Belitina” is a combination of those three countries’ names. The beer itself also represents all three countries: Belgium is represented by the style; China is represented by the green coffee beans and light-roast coffee beans, which were sourced directly from the Yunnan Valley (the location for the Chinese portion of the film); and Italy is represented by adding espresso shots directly to the finished beer.”
Maia Kazaks: “I definitely appreciate including a local coffee roaster in a local craft beer, but I haven't noticed too many "macro" coffee brands getting used in thoughtful beers. The ultimate experience for me was Portland, Oregon's NW Coffee Beer Invitational, where I drank a huge variety of delightful and surprising beverages made with coffee. I'm talking White Stouts, mead, Saisons, Peanut Butter/Pecan/Hazelnut Porters, and Pale Ales made with varying levels of caffeine. Outstanding! The opportunity to sample widely made for an educational and satisfying day. Yes, I'm a fan.”
Kristen Foster: “A non-Stout coffee beer that completely surprised me was Hopewell Brewing Co's Cascara Side Salad (a Grisette) at last year's Uppers & Downers. It was easily one of the best coffee beers that I've ever had.”
Michael McAllister: “More than the origin or roast of the coffee used in a beer, the method of adding coffee is the biggest factor for me. For example, a coffee that is extracted/brewed and then blended is more appealing than the dry beaning method that is seen most of the time.
In the last two years, I’ve come across some Coffee Lagers which have been particularly enchanting. The most memorable has been Creature Comforts’ Cellarman’s Pils!”
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