Last year I did a post about coffee beers. (You can check it out HERE if you want to see some more). That was one of the more fun beer review posts I did that year and I think it is about time for a second one! As a coffee fan, (but no connoisseur,) I find this style of beer to be a very interesting intersection of two of my great beverage likes. Coffee beers tend to be very polarizing among beer drinkers, but not as much as pumpkin and spice beers. So without further ado, here are some new reviews: some are vintage aged beers, some from distant lands (Pennsylvania), others fresh and local.
Enki Brewing Mocha Porter: This is very local beer, coming from a brewery just a 10-15 minute drive from my home. Hopefully it will still be on tap by the time I post this! This is a version of their Cacao Porter, a mellow dark beer with chocolate added, that also adds coffee to the mix.
Aroma: I get a strong dark chocolate aroma, rich, roasty, and sweet. Malt and caramel notes as swirled. Very subtle coffee notes difficult to pick out from roasted dark malts.
Appearance: Deep brown to nearly black in color. Almost opaque but with ruby highlights at edge of glass when held to the meager light of the taproom. Head is a bit low and fleeting, fading to the rim quickly.
Flavor: Off-sweet maltiness up front, that fades slowly to a rich chocolate finish. Complex meld of light roast coffee, bitter black malt, and sweetness. Body is medium and creamy, but drops to a fairly dry finish. Carbonation is appropriate for the style--slightly low and very British.
Overall: A well balanced porter, fit for any English pub. The chocolate in this version is front and center, which is a bit surprising considering the addition of coffee. The coffee is very subtle and difficult to pick out, but it certainly adds complexity and character to this brew. I like it a lot...but I personally want more coffee flavor! This will be a great one for those who are not huge caffiends like me. 4/5
Troegs JavaHead Stout: This is actually the first beer I have had from Troegs Brewing out of Hershey, Pennsylvania. I picked this one up from the glorious bottled beer selection at the Headkeeper outside of Pittsburgh on a recent trip. The website gives a fair amount of information on the beer (7.5% ABV, 60 IBU, oats in the mash) as well as a video of roasting the coffee and brewing of the beer. The coffee is added (with hops) to the hopback after the boil is done, acting like a big French Press coffee maker.
Aroma: Sweet malt. Milk Chocolate and candy sweetness. Very light roasted grain aroma. Coffee is very minimal.
Appearance: Deep black and nearly opaque. Dark tan head that fades quickly. Fine lace.
Flavor: Up front strong roast firmness of a strong American hoppy stout. Some alcohol warming that seems almost like an Imperial stout. Smooth chocolate in the middle of the taste. Ends a bit bitter and astringent. Medium mouthfeel that seems creamy at first but ends dry and bitter. Deep almost burnt coffee flavors as it warms.
Overall: Not a bad beer, but not my favorite coffee beer. The roasty bitterness of the coffee beans seems to accentuate the high IBU and roasted grain astringency, cutting the oaty-slick mouthfeel and making this a bit too astringent for my palate. 3.5/5
Alesmith Speedway Stout Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee: Last year I did a review of the regular version of this wonderful beer. I recently came into a stash of some of the variants and here is the first one I'm cracking! This is 2014 vintage and has 12% ABV. Mostra Coffee has lightly roasted the very rare and expensive Blue Mountain coffee, then it is cold brewed and added to the beer.
Aroma: Strong bitter dark baker's chocolate and roasted dark grain. Coffee is light and has a hint of acidity. Sweetness from malt is warms and swirled.
Appearance: Deep black and completely opaque. Initial large deep tan head that fades quickly.
Flavor: Powerful roasted coffee bean flavor, fading to a roasty and caramel sweetness. Very dry, bordering on astringent finish. This beer tastes like fine dark chocolate with a mouth-coating semi-sweet flavor.
Overall: A wonderful use of coffee in a beer. I like this slightly more than the "regular" version but I wouldn't spend too much more for it in the future. A dark and bitter brew--perfect for someone (like me) who loves dark roast and espresso. Easy to keep drinking this due to the dry finish--doesn't get cloying like many RIS beers. 4.5/5
Flat Earth Black Helicopter: I had this on tap at McCoy's Public House in St. Louis Park. We hit the place right at the end of happy hour and these huge glasses were the same price as regular ones...Why not?! I first tried this beer at a fund-raiser the first year it was released. At the time, it was the second coffee beer I'd ever tried and I was blown away by how powerful the coffee flavor and aroma was. It was very limited at the time and I bought it whenever I could find it. I'll be honest here, I haven't had a Flat Earth beer since founder/brewer Jeff Williamson was "let go" after having to find alternate funding to keep the brewery open. I may hold a grudge...kinda like a good passive aggressive Minnesotan. Being in a crowded bar with low light was not ideal for a review--and I scribbled it messily on a soggy Indeed coaster.
Aroma: Strong coffee aroma of dark roast. Some cocoa and sweet malt comes through once you get used to the powerful roasted beans.
Appearance: Deep black, opaque (in dark bar anyway). Somewhat dark tan head that fades slowly.
Flavor: Sweet malt with hint of caramel up front. Sweetness fades fast to a very prominent dark (almost bitter) roasted coffee flavor. A bit astringent, but the malt does even this out to some extent. No hop flavors noted. Mouthfeel almost seems thin, and this may be accentuated by the astringent finish. Not incredibly complex.
Overall: A decent coffee beer, but a bit over the top with the dark roast and bitterness. This is not as good as remembered, but I'm not sure if my tastes have changed or if the beer recipe has. I remember this being smoother. It would be great on nitro. 3.5/5
Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout 2012:
I'm cheating on this one. I reviewed the beer for my A Whale A Week so I'm just posting the link HERE if you haven't read it yet!
OK, so I have accumulated several more coffee beers over the past months and will do a second post of these in the future. My favorite of this current batch was the Goose Island, with Alesmith coming in close second. Are there any amazing coffee beers I should be trying?