The convergence of coffee and beer, two of my favorite beverages, has been a favorite subject in 2013. In June, Food GPS co-produced a Father’s Day CollaBREWtive Brunch with Firestone Walker Brewing Co., an event that featured six local coffee roasters collaborating with six local breweries to produce coffee beers just for the event. On October 19, I was happy to jump deeper into the caffeinated, well-hopped rabbit hole at Intelligentsia Pasadena, a coffeehouse with a craft beer component that showcased Uppers & Downers. Representatives from eight L.A. and Chicago area breweries poured coffee beers and discussed the processes with emcee Michael Kiser, the Good Beer Hunting founder. Better yet, event proceeds benefited The Keep A Breast Foundation.
Here are nine different in-depth studies of the coffee beer brewing process.
Jeremy Raub (Eagle Rock Brewery) on Stimulus
We decided not to brew a stout or porter, but to make a lighter beer, and kind of mess with people’s emotions…We brought some beers down [to Intelligentsia], we started drinking beers, drinking coffees, pouring coffees and beer, getting all kinds of crazy with it. What we came up with was the idea that Belgian beers, the fruity esters and spicy phenols that are produced by Belgian yeast, would go really nicely with some of the more fruity characteristics they bring out when they’re roasting their coffee. We decided to do a Belgian amber. The first year, we used a Yirgacheffe, which is what this year is as well. This is a coffee called Karimi.
We went back to our brewing experimentation side and we tried making five different versions of the same beer, adding coffee in five different ways just to see which was going to bring out the best characteristics from the coffee and ultimately we thought that the cold process was the best way to bring out the coffee flavor in the beer. The beer that you have in your hands is a Belgian amber. It’s about 6.5, 6.6% alcohol by volume. It has a little bit of a toffee caramel malt characteristic to it. The base beer has a little bit of spicy dry Belgian yeast phenol to it, some dry fruit character. The coffee that we used is really nice and acidic. It has very nice berry characteristics. When we were cupping it, all of our crew thought we tasted some nice tropical fruit characteristics, berry characteristics, and we thought it was going to be a nice match, so we added 80 pounds of coffee to 30 barrels of beer, so that’s just over two-and-a-half pounds of coffee per barrel of beer. We fermented out the beer, turned the beer down, so it was at a cool temperature. It was at about 38 degrees, and then we added 70 pounds of coffee, dumped it in the fermenter, similar to the process, as if you were dry-hopping a beer. So dry-coffeeing is a term you could say. The coffee was on the beer for about 20 hours, and then we transferred the beer off the coffee into the packaging tank, and that’s what you have in front of you right now.
Beer isn’t just something you drink in the morning, before you go surfing, to get a little buzzed. The original vision of Board Meeting was kind of latte based, even though the color doesn’t really show that. We wanted some deep roasted malt to help bring out the spicy notes of the coffee we wanted to use. There’s a little bit of rye in the beer, which helps to make it a little spicier. We chose a Guatemala blend to exaggerate that and added cacao to help sweeten it up. What you’re going to taste in Board Meeting is a dark 8.2% alcohol beer that really is using the coffee to bring out the notes of the malt, as opposed to other beers that brew coffee-forward, we’re using the coffee to bring out the notes of the malt we wanted to bring out. We added some cacao nibs to help cut the astringency of the coffee. What came out, after a couple trials and errors, was a fairly drinkable, high alcohol coffee beer that I will drink morning, noon and night.