On a recent trip to the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market, my wife, Carmen, and I had to weave around a long line of people waiting to get freshly brewed coffee. Noting the line, I commented that I don’t understand people’s obsession with coffee. She just stared at me and replied, “Really? Have you ever listened to yourself talk about beer?” Fair point. In a way, coffee lovers and craft beer lovers have a lot in common, both enjoying the nuances in flavor and aroma that come from exploring new blends or styles. And, with the growing popularity of coffee-infused beers, coffee lovers and beer drinkers can share their obsessions in one glass.
Stouts are the most common beer to be combined with coffee. This style is made with darker malts and roasted, unmalted barley, which can not only turn the beer opaquely dark, but can also add a bitterness that is more reminiscent of coffee than of hops. Stouts are typically full-bodied, with some varieties being described as silky or creamy in texture, and they can vary in dryness or sweetness.
A number of local brewers make coffee-infused stouts that are sure to please both beer and coffee enthusiasts. Quaff ON! Brewing Company makes a delightful beer called Common Necessity, a sweet stout brewed with coffee and hazelnut. I find the hazelnut flavor subtle, but it adds smoothness and a little complexity to the coffee flavor, and the bit of sweetness in the beer makes this a mellow, well-balanced brew. Best of all, while many coffee stouts are seasonal offerings, Common Necessity is available year-round.
The Tap Brewery makes an American stout called Midnight fUEL that uses locally roasted beans from Uel-Zing Coffee. It’s not quite as sweet as Common Necessity, with the coffee flavor and bitterness a little more pronounced. Add in the slightly higher alcohol content (6.3 percent ABV) and a bit more hops, and this beer is more bracing—nice as the weather turns colder. Expect Midnight fUEL to return to taps
If you are looking for a “fresh” coffee-infused stout, visit the Uptown Cafe for a popular weekend brunch drink called a Dufrain—a shot of espresso in a pint of Guinness. Their bar also serves Founders Breakfast Stout, a very popular imperial coffee stout that can both wake you up and lay you out; it’s pretty potent, with 8.3 percent ABV and a bitterness from both abundant coffee and hops.
One of my favorite coffee-infused beers is the Java Porter from Bloomington Brewing Co. Porters and stouts are closely related, but the porter’s lack of roasted barley as an ingredient tends to leave most of the coffee-like flavors to the beans rather than the grain. After the beer is fermented and chilled, brewers add Brown County Coffee for a 72-hour steep, similar to how coffee brewers can utilize a cold-brewing process to reduce the acidic bite of the coffee. This delicious seasonal will return to BBC taps around mid-October.
Whether you are a coffee lover or a beer aficionado, Bloomington has you covered. But try combining the two in a coffee-infused beer and you’ll find exciting new ways to love your brew. Cheers!
Greg Siering has been homebrewing since 2006 and is a member of the Bloomington Hop Jockeys. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.