Conventionally, coffee is a drink reserved for mornings, while beer is typically consumed in the evening. But while these seem like opposing libations, they share a handful of commonalities. Both drinks derive flavors from the roasting of either beans or grain. Both can give you a nice ‘buzz’. Both have a passionate following. Darker beer styles such as porter and stout emulate coffee-like flavors because of their roasted malt content. It took little time for American craft brewers to recognize this, they are often drinking coffee while mashing-in! The marriage of coffee and beer is a no-brainer. This realization has led to prolific experimentation and some magical results.
Coffee is a unique ingredient that can be infused into beer through a variety of methods. With so many options available, the brewer can choose a method that best achieves their desired results: what amount of flavor, bitterness, and acidity are they looking to express in the beer? They also must consider bean selection, source, and availability. Because of this last factor, many of the best coffee beers are released seasonally or in limited batches. There are some great year-round options however, particularly from a few of our local brewers.
Early home and craft brewers pioneered the style by simply adding freshly-brewed coffee directly to their finished beer. Though the results could be flavorful, often this imparted too much acrid, acidic flavor, throwing off the beer’s balance. This method is not practiced professionally as a result. Variations of a cold-brewed or ‘cold toddy’ method are most commonplace among professional brewers. Coarsely-ground beans are steeped in cold liquor water (brewing water) or cold beer over many hours, sometimes days. This technique maximizes the pure, smooth coffee flavor and produces wonderful aromas.
Look around, we are amidst a coffee beer revolution! The France 44 beer cooler is practically overflowing with them. Come grab a few of our France 44 staff favorites and see why coffee beer is the hot thing right now!
Disclaimer: Does coffee beer contain caffeine? You betcha’. But the amount can vary widely. Most breweries don’t state the amount in the bottle, so be careful if you’re sensitive. At most, it can be about equivalent to regular cup of joe. Regular coffee drinkers will hardly notice.
SIXPOINT 5BEANS BALTIC PORTER – $12.99/4PK
5BEANS is the third chapter in Sixpoint’s BEANS saga. Inspired by Turkish bazaars, this Baltic porter showcases striking aromas and flavors from the use of cacao, coffee, romano and vanilla beans, plus black cardamom! Smoky, oily coffee notes, unsweetened cocoa, a touch of vanilla, and some baking spice. Despite its 10% ABV strength, this porter is deceptively easy to drink. Close your eyes and let it transport your mind to an exotic destination.
SUMMIT DARK INFUSION COFFEE MILK STOUT – $9.99/4PK
What is this delicious, dark brew? It’s Summit Brewing’s first ever coffee beer! Our own local Blackeye Roasting Company in St. Paul, MN supplied a custom blend of Brazilian and Colombian varieties to intensify the coffee bean aromas. A cold-brew method was chosen to help retain the aromatic organic compounds in the beans while mitigating any acrid, astringent flavors. By adding lactose sugars to the boil, Summit created silky smooth mouth-feel to balance the bright, roasty flavors. Chocolate-like roast, dark fruit and coffee flavors that are softly sweet lead to a surprisingly drying finish. An excellent collaboration between two local stalwarts.
EPIC BIG BAD BAPTIST IMPERIAL STOUT – $11.99/22OZ
It’s big, it’s bad, it’s the Big Bad Baptist. Each batch is a new mystery, featuring different coffee beans from different sources. The current batch #76 features a custom coffee blend from Novo Coffee in Denver, CO. This stout is huge: fudge, vanilla, coconut, coffee notes all ride atop a firm, alcoholic body. You will sense a slight, pleasant whiskey note from the barrel. Absolutely delicious.
STONE XOCOVEZA IMPERIAL STOUT – $16.99/6PK
Say it ten times fast! Pronounced “sho-co-vay-za”, this once limited-release specialty earned its way into Stone’s seasonal lineup. Everything but the kitchen sink was tossed into this persuasive imperial stout: San Diego’s Mostra Coffee, cocoa, vanilla, pasilla peppers, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lactose sugar. Yes, it tastes like Mexican hot chocolate. Can you dig it?
BALLAST POINT VICTORY AT SEA – $14.99/6PK
A huge porter that pairs perfectly with all-day ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movie marathon binge sessions. By using cold-brewed Caffe Calabria coffee, Ballast Point achieved a silky smooth roast character while minimizing any acrid, acidic flavors. Sweet caramel, chocolate, vanilla and coffee notes are a winning combination. Don’t you think it’s so delicious? Try the two new variants now available in 22oz bombers: Peppermint and Coconut Victory at Sea (both $8.49).
BENT PADDLE COLD PRESS BLACK ALE – $8.99/4PK
Bent Paddle Black Ale infused with Duluth Coffee Co.’s “Crazy Juice” cold-press. This beer should be a staple at your Sunday brunch. Dark cocoa and coffee aromas play on top of a walnut-y, roasted palate that has a nice balance of sweet and bitter. At 6% ABV, Cold Press Black is quite session-able relative to the beers listed above.
SURLY COFFEE BENDER OATMEAL BROWN ALE – $9.99/4PK
Minnesota’s pioneer coffee beer, first concocted many moons ago by our own beloved Todd Haug (We’ll miss you Todd!). Locally sourced, ground Guatemalan coffee beans are steeped in Bender that has finished its fermentation, creating essentially a ‘cold-press’ beer. Aromas of cold press coffee, caramel, and roasted nuts. The palate is super smooth and evokes chocolate and cappuccino-like flavors.