Java fiends rejoice: breweries experimenting with coffee in specialty beers

Operators are brewing beers with premium coffees to add a significant boost of flavor and warming sensation that’s especially appealing during the colder months. The natural tastes of roasted dark malts complement the bitterness of coffee, making coffee-infused beers flavorfully complex. Breweries are giving coffee beers an upscale treatment, modernizing this trend with the use of premium coffee beans and upscale brewing techniques.

Beyond simple coffee-based stouts or porters, we are seeing breweries emphasize a sense of premiumization with the actual beans that they use. Limited-release beers are spotlighting high-quality, small-batch beans from local specialty roasters. This year, Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout (BCBS) lineup featured a Coffee Stout made using Chicago-based Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea’s Los Delirious coffee from Nicaragua. Each year, the brewery rotates the types of Intelligentsia beans it highlights in its BCBS coffee variant, putting as much focus on the quality of the coffee beans as it does the brewing process.

Some breweries are going even further with the coffee idea. Braxton Brewing Company, for example, partnered with Kentucky-based Carabello Coffee to introduce Bourbon Barrel-Aged Starter Coffee, which are individual wax-sealed bottles of Carabello roasted beans that have been aged in Braxton’s barrels. This release also coincides with Braxton’s first bottled beer release of Dark Charge Imperial Stout, available in four variants, one of which includes Dark Charge Bourbon Barrel-Aged with Starter Coffee. The coffee company and brewery’s Starter Coffee program included working through an extensive coffee cupping process in which a specialty blend was created exclusively for Braxton’s coffee beers.

 Carabello Bourbon Barrel-Aged coffee beans

Braxton Brewing Company released 300 hand-numbered bottles of its Carabello Bourbon Barrel-Aged coffee beans

The level of care and consideration put into a coffee-infused beer has a strong influence on the way it is viewed by beer enthusiasts. By creating limited-batch beers made with quality and, sometimes, in-house or locally roasted beans, brewers are not only appealing to beer drinkers, but also possibly reaching a new, untapped following of coffee connoisseurs.


Kristin Menas

Kristin Menas is an Associate Editor of Canada and Adult Beverage at Technomic Inc. in Chicago. She is responsible for writing, editing and analyzing content for the company’s newsletters and reports, which cover the Canadian foodservice market, U.S. adult beverage industry and convenience-store sector. She also contributes editorial content for Technomic’s Digital Resource Library, MenuMonitor and Digital Resource Information Knowledgebase (DRINK).

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