I genuinely think coffee is the greatest addition to beer - and to life generally. Unfortunately, you can't drink beer all day and you can't drink coffee all night... the two entities have been in cohorts and instead of fighting for superiority, they've decided to sit side-by-side in equal harmony.
When you combine these two seemingly exclusive worlds, however, they provide us with something truly special. It's because of this that we've made Beat Café, our new 6% abv Coffee Stout with Cold Brew Coffee.
As a bit of a coffee geek, I was aware of the different varietals and brewing methods. This knowledge was put into grave perspective once I spoke to Mani, head barista, trainer and roaster at Ancoats Coffee Co., who spoke enthusiastically and in great depth regarding the options available. Apart from being our relatively close neighbours, Ancoats Coffee Co. have a wonderful reputation of producing beautiful coffee so our roaster of choice was a no brainer. What did require more thought was how the coffee would interact with the beer.
So first, the beer. We always wanted Beat Café to be smooth, complex and easy to drink instead of a big thick stout. The inspiration for the beer came from the beat writers that sat for hours drinking coffee and scribbling poetry in their New York and San Francisco hangouts; so we wanted to help them out with an easier drinking coffee stout! We used seven different malts to give the beer complexity, including splitting the roasted malt bill between traditional roasted malt and a speciality malt, Carafa III, which is a dehusked roasted malt which dramatically reduces acridness. Combined with a large percentage of oats and wheat, this gives an overall perception of smoothness. We used 100% English hops as well as English yeast. These two elements add a slight spiciness along with a distinct profile of red fruits.
Now we have the main points of the beer, we could look at which coffees and brewing styles would be most suitable. The obvious choice for brewing style was to cold brew the coffee. This would also us to extract the coffee flavour from the ground beans without the astringent bitter taste which comes with brewing coffee with a much higher water temperature. With our other coffee beer, Afrobeat, we add espresso as we want the big coffee hit without adding too much liquid; however, as we want Beat Café to be a lighter stout we didn't mind adding an additional 25 litres of liquid as this fit in with the style we were aiming for.
The fun part now was picking the coffee.
Mani very kindly walked us through the options and picked out five different coffees for a cupping. A cupping is a uniformed way in which to taste and smell different coffees side-by-side - an amazing way to pick out the differences. We tasted the following:
Fazenda Santa Barbara | Brazil | Profile: Peach - Praline - Nougat
Verdict: On paper, I thought this would be the winner, but it didn't quite have the flavour I was expecting. Not the one for us.
Union y Fe | Peru | Profile: Lime - Orange - Cane Sugar
Verdict: A great coffee, but I thought it would get a bit lost in the beer. Not quite.
Parducci Natural Pacamara | El Salvador | Profile: White Grape - Pomegranate - Peach Ice Tea
Verdict: Wow! What a coffee... tastes and smells exactly like a peach ice tea. A little too delicate for the beer, but I'm tempted to make another pale beer that complements this coffee - simply brilliant!
Kayon Mountain | Ethiopia | Profile: Yuzu - Cacao - Kafir Lime
Verdict: One of the nicest coffees I've ever had and have since bought 2kg for use at home. So many big flavours going on that we thought it was a maybe too much for the beer. Close, but no cigar.
Alirio Muñoz | Colombia | Profile: Raspberry - Black Tea - Grannie Smith Apples - Pistachio
Verdict: On paper, I had this coffee down as a non-stater given green apple is such a noticeable off-flavouring beer. However, this coffee had a brightness that shone through with enough body to add complexity to the beer whilst complementing the dark/red fruits of the yeast and hops. Without doubt, the winner!!
With that, we ordered 10kg of the Alirio Muñoz and picked it up a few days later.
We took the very course ground coffee (perfect for cold brewing given the extended time in contact with the water) back to the brewery where we cold brewed the coffee before adding it to the beer. 50 litres of water was mixed with the 10kg of coffee which gave us the right flavour and consistency we were looking for. We let the beer ferment out completely and then added the coffee just before transfer from the FV to the CT where it had time to condition and blend with the beer.
We frequently tasted the beer out of the CT to see if our coffee choice was right; we were very happy from day one, but as time passed the coffee and beer blended better than we could have hoped for and the brightness of the coffee - especially the fruits - mixed incredibly well with the fruitiness of the yeast.
This batch went straight into 440ml cans which we're really happy with. Many people have already tried and shared great feedback; it's always great when people pick up on the idea we were going for with lots of mentioned about interplay between smooth chocolate and dark fruits. I'm especially looking forward to sitting at the bar and ordering a pint as we're putting it into keg for the first time today.
I hope you get to enjoy it too and please feel free to share your thoughts if you get to try the beer.
Thanks for reading,
Beatnikz Republic Brewing Co.