Buzzed Beer: How brewers fuse beer with coffee, plus seven java brews to try

Surly Coffee Bender Oatmeal Brown Ale

Surly Coffee Bender Oatmeal Brown Ale // Photo courtesy of Surly Brewing

Surly Coffee Bender Oatmeal Brown Ale // Photo courtesy of Surly Brewing

The Coffee: Ground Guatemala Finca Vista Hermosa (from Coffee & Tea in Linden Hills) is added directly to the fermenter, post-fermentation. The grounds are removed during centrifugation.

The Why: “Using coffee on the cold side (versus adding to the boil or in the whirlpool) imparts coffee flavors that are sweeter, smoother, and less acidic than coffee beers that extract coffee at higher temperatures,” says head brewer Jerrod Johnson.

The Feedback: “I am always surprised by who loves coffee beers. For example, I introduced Coffee Bender to a relative who did not like ‘dark beers’ and was not a craft beer drinker. I knew that she loved good coffee, though, so I gave her a can of Coffee Bender. That can of beer was her ‘a-ha!’ moment,” says Johnson. “Equating the flavor profile of the beer with something she loved helped her take the mental leap and understand that beer can be so much more than an American lager. Years later, she’s the first in line when I crack open a bottle of Pentagram or Darkness, and I attribute that to the epiphany of her first can of Coffee Bender.”

Burning Brothers Roasted Coffee Strong Ale

Burning Brothers Roasted Coffee Strong Ale // Photo courtesy of Burning Brothers Brewing

Burning Brothers Roasted Coffee Strong Ale // Photo courtesy of Burning Brothers Brewing

The Coffee: A top-secret blend of Minnesota-roasted, cold-pressed coffee injected into the fermenter after a few days of primary fermentation.

The Why: “The ‘when,’ ‘how,’ and ‘what’ all play into the final product,” says co-founder Dane Breimhorst.  “We like adding the cold press in the fermenter because it leaves most of the bitter oils intact. This lets me have more control in the bitterness of the final product.”

The Feedback: “We use a strong ale style to give a backbone to the coffee. We feel stouts and porters have enough coffee flavors on their own,” says Breimhorst. “People seem to like it. City Pages voted us in the top 10 with a taste-testing panel. Our coffee ale also took third at the 2011 State Fair without us mentioning the gluten-free part of it!”

Birch’s on the Lake Golden Coffee Chocolate Ale

Birch's on the Lake Golden Coffee Chocolate Ale // Photo courtesy of Birch's on the Lake

Birch’s on the Lake Golden Coffee Chocolate Ale // Photo courtesy of Birch’s on the Lake

The Coffee: Dunn Brothers French Roast Colombia, cold-pressed (“cold toddy”-style) and added to the serving tank with the finished beer.

The Why: “The cold toddy method is best to reduce the oxidative qualities that hot coffee can have on beer,” says brewmaster Brennan Greene. “The darker the roast, the better it works with beer. Putting it in a lighter beer allows the customer to experience a pure coffee flavor, not one that is mixed in with the roasted barley flavor.”

The Feedback: “We switched the name from Coffee Chocolate Golden Ale to Golden Coffee Chocolate Ale, but we still get the same response from most people: ‘I thought it was going to be darker,’” Greene says. “It’s the only beer we’ve had on tap continually since we opened, and it’s the beer that we bring to every festival because it helps people remember us among all the others.”

Modist First Call Cold Press Coffee Lager

Modist First Call Cold Press Coffee Lager // Photo courtesy of Modist Brewing

Modist First Call Cold Press Coffee Lager // Photo courtesy of Modist Brewing

The Coffee: A custom roast from Wesley Andrews, freshly ground and cold-pressed, added into the fermentation vessel.

The Why: The process is less messy, more efficient, and less wasteful, according to head brewer Keigan Knee. “Our method imparts a smooth, highly aromatic and bold true coffee flavor, without the harsh and astringent flavors you get from over-processing coffee as a raw ingredient.”

The Feedback: “First Call gets a lot of love,” says Knee. “It constantly gets praise for its uniqueness, and it’s currently ranked as a top pale lager on Untapped. Many of our customers are surprised that First Call looks exactly like a pale lager—and drinks like one—yet has the classic bold coffee flavor you’d find in a black ale, porter, or stout. It appeals to a wide range of beer drinkers, non-beer drinkers, and coffee lovers alike. We couldn’t be happier with this beer.”

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A Blind Tasting beer festival

Taste & Rate 48 Minnesota Oktoberfests

Sept. 20, 2019 | 5:30–9pm
Upper Landing Park
Tickets: GA $40 | DD $20