Creativity Defines the Next Generation of Coffee Beers

News by | Dec 2017 | Issue #131

In November, Hi-Wire Brewing released its popular Strongman Coffee Milk Stout in a mixed 12-pack, which includes three creative variants of the original beer: one with habanero peppers, another with raspberries and chocolate, and a third with single-origin coffee beans.

“The one-offs were made to complement the base beer while pushing it into new areas,” says head brewer Luke Holgate. Raspberry Mocha Strongman brings out the coffee’s depth of flavors—from the light, fruity side to the dark, complex roast characteristics. In Single Origin Strongman, Holgate draws out new flavors through multiple extraction methods, adding coffee in both the hot and cold sides of the brewing process. And, finally, Habanero Strongman aims to hit flavors akin to Mexican chocolate cake.

“I am excited for people to see how an old favorite can be modified to make a totally new beer, as well as for customers to experience how different ingredients can play off of the coffee,” says co-owner Chris Frosaker of the riffs on the Asheville, N.C., brewery’s most popular seasonal release.

Long a favorite addition to Stouts and Porters (New Glarus drew attention for its Coffee Stout in 1996, and Redhook Double Black Coffee Stout won a silver medal at the 1997 Great American Beer Festival), brewers across the country are pushing the boundaries when it comes to incorporating coffee into seasonal and limited releases.

As part of a reimagining of its specialty portfolio, New Belgium is revisiting some of its most-loved beers and presenting them in new ways. La Folie Grand Reserve: Geisha Sour Ale blends the sour beer that launched the brewery’s barrel-aging program 20 years ago with coveted Geisha coffee sourced from Hacienda La Esmeralda in Panama. Released in November, the 750-milliliter bottles retail for $48.

Meanwhile, Maui Brewing Company incorporated KonaRed Hawaiian coffee fruit—the flesh surrounding the bean—into its Pilialoha Belgian Red Ale, which was packaged for local distribution in October. Fruity esters from Bastogne yeast in the Belgian-style Red Ale complement the dark fruit notes, says brewing supervisor Jon DuPont.

It’s only natural that fans of both beverages overlap, says James Gentile, director of brewery operations at Victory Brewing Co., which released its popular Java Cask Coffee Bourbon Stout in 12-ounce four-packs rather than bombers for the first time this year. “Roasters out there are traveling to further reaches of the world to bring a diverse array of coffees locally to roast that we brewers can potentially work with,” says Gentile. “It is a really exciting time as both industries raise the bar with creativity and quality.”