No Really, What Is The Best Coffee Beer?
After our first tasting of coffee beers, we realized that the surface had only been scratched by our efforts. With so many coffee flavored beers currently being brewed, our attempts to find the world’s best needed a much larger sample size. And any excuse to taste coffee beers in the cold months makes sense to the BW cabal. This is our effort to review more of the world’s coffee beer population. So why are there so many beers using coffee? And what is the origin of coffee in beer? Who do you think we are, Woodward and Bernstein? You’r way off pal. Let’s get to tasting.
At a recent party Dave and I moved furtively to the kitchen with a trio of fellow craft beer aficionados. We then poured (not 100% blind) mostly even drams into small sampling glasses. Starting from the most genteel amber ale with coffee and Sam Adams lackadaisical creation (the only repeat from part #1), we moved to heavier beers before finishing with bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts. Notes were taken but no scores were tallied.
- Goose Island – Bourbon County Coffee Stout 2011: This is a super hyped beer. Brewed with Chicago’s own Intelligentsia Anjilanaka beans, a coffee geek choice, and barrel aged in Elijah Craig 18 year barrels, this beer uses world class ingredients in a style defining brand. Huge fruity coffee, massive vanilla and bourbon with roasted malt flavors with no bitterness. Lives up to the noise and then some. 14% ABV.
- Founders – Kentucky Breakfast Stout: Smelling of coffee and sweet chocolate, pours a khaki strong head with good retention. The taste is cold pressed coffee combined with semi-sweet chocolate. Finishes with a bitter chocolate/hoppy bite. The mouthfeel is thick but slick from the oatmeal, and well carbonated. A world class blending of flavors, brewed to perfection.
- De Struise – Damnation II Mocha Bomb: A dark chestnut pour with bubbly tan head. Smell is surprising mix of malts, coffee, and hops. Some sweetness, coffee, and hops with biscuity malts. Some astringency from the roasted malts and hops. Coffee is mostly in the finish. Body is creamy, smooth and thick. The 12% ABV is well hidden. Superb beer.
- Long Trail – Brewmaster Series Coffee Stout: An imperial stout at 8% ABV. Lots of chocolate roasted malt flavors and potent, smooth coffee. Good body, a bit of oil and only a hint of java bitterness. When we think of good coffee stout, this is it. Seek this out!
- Fort Collins – Common Ground: Tasted second. An American amber ale. Taste is Fat Tire with coffee from the well regarded Jackie’s Java. Nothing wrong with that. The big dark malts play to style and pair well with the coffee notes. An uncommon, but solid coffee beer admixture.
- Dark Horse – Perkulator Coffee Dopplebock: “Hear that? The percolations are imminent. No need to come in… cease your ingress!” -Mr.Burns. Strong coffee nose. Taste is of bad church coffee and huge sweet caramel malts, finishing bitterly.
- Samuel Adams – Black and Brew: First beer we tasted. Still dark and smelling of coffee. Still bland and lacking much of the body or roasted elements of a stout or any fresh coffee. But check out the snake in this video review of this beer!!!
- Cigar City – Cubano-Stlye Espresso Brown Ale: Appealing espresso roasted coffee nose. Unfortunately this beer was infected, very sour: drain pour.
Your morning caffeine fix does double duty after hours not just in dark beers but complementing dopplebocks, even amber ales. As a flavor additive to beer, coffee beans can add wonderful roasted tannins or harsh bitterness. Just as they do with with a straight cup O’ joe. But that seems almost a facile point. The true revelation from this second tasting is that we found even more great and mediocre coffee beers, and yet there are so many more to taste. So where is the Peche Mortel by Dieu Du Ciel or Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast? Where are Wake ‘n Bake or Victory at Sea or Wolavaer’s Alta Gracia? We hear you loud and clear. Tomorrow is another day, and with it we will need our coffee. And soon enough after that we will again need to do another tasting of coffee beers. All in the quest to find the world’s best coffee beer.