I get goose bumps when “brewing” enters into any conversation. Consuming a beverage that requires meticulous flavor extraction and results in showcasing an artist’s hard work speaks to my soul. It should be no surprise that my two favorite beverages are brewed. Both beer and coffee share an ability to stimulate social gatherings and unite people. These products have become essential to my existence. Not because I need them, but because they embody and ignite my passion.
Long before I was drinking coffee or beer, a creative genius hatched a plan. Why not infuse these two incredible beverages to create one of the richest, most decadent beverages on the planet? Finding the exact origin is near impossible, but like most innovation in beer I believe coffee stouts began with homebrewers. Not long after, a talented commercial brewer extended this idea and introduced the world to a brand new style of beer. Use of the word “synergy” is for Satan and other evil beings, but I’ll be damned if the merriment of coffee and beer isn’t the best synergy I’ve ever quaffed.
Enough Romance, Get to the Details
Professing aside, I’m writing about this topic for a very important reason. I’ve been fortunate enough to land a job squarely positioned between these two unique beverages. I will be bartending at Tryst Coffeehouse Bar & Lounge for the foreseeable future. I’ll also be assuming a role as the in-house beer dude. Inspired by my love of these two beverages, I thought it would be a great idea to write an article about the marriage of coffee and beer not only in product, but in ideology as well. Upon conducting some preliminary research I realized that this topic is way bigger than I originally thought. Coffee stouts and porters are so complex that I believe one could spend an entire lifetime researching them. I won’t be doing that, but I have decided to detail these unique beer styles in an epic three-part follow up.
Part 1: Trouble Brewing – A Brief History of Coffee Beer
In this upcoming post I’ll cover coffee beer and its origins as a style. I managed to track down Deborah Carey of New Glarus Brewing for a great conversation via telephone. From what I understand, New Glarus was one of the first commercial producers of coffee beer (if not the first). I learned a great deal about the inspiration for the style and the subsequent crack down by the government.
Turns out, certain regulatory bodies weren’t too fond of infusing coffee and beer. Brewers are still battling with three letter agencies over this sensitive issue. Make sure to check back soon for this enlightening trek backwards in history.
Make sure to get your history lesson in my follow-up article here.
Part 2: The Artisanal Craft – Coffee Beer Brewing Methods
A lot of the information for this article stems from conversations with homebrewers and plenty of forum hunting. This is definitely an article for the brewer-minded folk who read this website. Even if you don’t get into the technical mumbo-jumbo you may learn a good deal and end up with a newfound appreciation for this uniquely difficult beer style. Check back for this follow up post to truly appreciate the brewer’s effort when you drink your next coffee beer.
Learn about the best coffee-beer brewing methods here.
Part 3: To Beer Or Not To Beer – Future Of Coffee Beer
For the final post in this series I’ll cover some commercially available examples, weird variations on this trend and the outlook for this distinct style moving forward. I’ll also touch upon recent issues that have flared up regarding the legality of this coffee-beer business.
Learn about the legality of coffee beer in my follow-up article here.
Final Notes and One Poetic Rant
Often times I restrain the poetic side of my writing to stay professional and factual. Once in a while I feel a moment of inspiration that lends me to an entirely different style of writing. Since this is a topic of great interest to me I figured I should share the story behind my very first coffee beer. Taken from my personal journal with some modification, below you’ll find a close recount of the revelation that I came into with my very first coffee beer a few years ago.
NYC Werewolves and The Magic Elixir
I’m a werewolf. I returned to human form and awoke sprawled across the floor dawning boxers and a singular sock around 11:30 AM. Apparently, the suitability of a mattress became a trivial matter for an animal of the night like me. Armed with fellow wolves and a full moon, we trounced under city lights leaving no part of Manhattan untouched the night before. As I emerged from my isolated alcove into the communal area of our shared den, a number of half-alive bodies laid about the living room. Feeling the ailments of our endeavors from the night before, we came to steadfast agreement that breakfast beers were in order.
No attempt was made to seem presentable for a trek to the local bottle shop. A magic elixir was desperately sought to resolve the tangled wires in our thriving brains. I stood before the shelves scratching my head before the third shelf down glowed with the answer to my prayers. Tröegs Java Head Stout. I whispered it under my breath, uncertain if my mid-afternoon vision was in proper order. I did not choose this beer, it chose me. Before I knew it, I was standing in the middle of the room bearing the treasures of my conquest. Several sets of blurry eyes looked on in wonderment as we carefully approached this tonic.
I gave the beer a proper pour and took a big whiff. Like lightning straight to the brain, the aroma forged a distinct and explosive connection into my neural receptors. Upon first sip, the roast coffee profile combined with the subtle presence of alcohol brought me right back to standing order. My spine straightened and the hairs on my arms stood up. The beer began scrubbing the insides of my stomach and brain. In the moment, I felt as though no other form of nourishment would suffice.
A few sips later the rest of the room came alive. We proceeded to discuss our follies from the night before amidst several bouts of hearty laughter. In that very moment I had an epiphany. Beer has powerful effects, but the most profound of these is to bring people together. The comradeship formed over those Java Stouts occurs only so often in one lifetime. As I continued to proceed with the rest of my day I re-examined some tall tales from the night before and the beers we shared. Coffee beer served as an aid for my ailments, but the real champions were my friends and our stories. Early morning laughter combined with a wonderful coffee beer made my hangover seem as if it never existed. Coffee beer will forever hold a special place in this wolf’s heart.