Sometimes a downer is made all the better with an upper. We’re not talking about the heart-racing, stay-up-all-night kinda way a round of Red Bull Vodka’s or Four Loko’s might inspire. More like a pleasant coffee-infused beer.
The two realms play really well together. Coffee, with its nutty, earthy, citrusy, roasted elements, and beer with its infinite alignments of grain and hops. Because the flavor spectrums are so broad for each element, matching the two requires a bit of skill.
In the old days of craft, it was hard to find much beyond a porter or stout being given the roasted bean treatment. Today, coffee is playing award-winning cameos in IPAs and golden ales and showing up in other styles in the forms of cold brew, espresso, and more. Brewers and roasters from all over the country are teaming up to show how their very specific recipes and bean types can combine to create something else entirely. (Hell, some breweries even roast their own coffee now.)
Here are a few worthy of some space in your fridge:
Pfriem Golden Coffee Ale
Made with Kenyan coffee roasted by Portland outfit Coava Coffee, this beer is bright, nutty, and backed by friendly fruit flavors. This is not the bottom of the pot, teeth-staining dregs kind of coffee addition. Instead, the beer shows quality coffee’s lighter, more elegant side.
Cigar City Cubano Espresso
This brown ale from Tampa marries coffee with cacao nibs and lactose. It’s a nod to Cuban culture, incorporating beans from area roaster Buddy Brew Coffee. It’s like a grown-up malted milkshake without too much richness.
Founder’s Breakfast Stout
A go-to in the craft community for some time, this imperial stout is a stand-alone Sunday brunch. Made with two kinds of coffee, flaked oats, and an array of chocolate, it harks back to your favorite childhood cereal while providing the adult kick (8.3% ABV) you may or may not need, depending on the time of day.
Flying Fish Exit 15 Coffee IPA
It’s said that this beer from one of the OG New Jersey breweries is named after the Hoboken turnpike exit where a Maxwell House coffee factory once stood. Cold-brew coffee plays off of Cascade, Citra, and Centennial hops for a nice blend of citrus zest and toasty, toffee-like flavors.
Stone Brewing Xocoveza
Calfornia’s Stone Brewing is not known for shy beers that keep to themselves. The Xocoveza is no exception, made in collaboration with home-brewer Chris Banker. Inspired by Mexican hot chocolate, the stout throws enticing heaps of cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, and coffee notes at your palate.
Claremont Coffee Del
Made from Colombian Giraldo coffee from southern California’s Klatch Roasting, Claremont’s take is invitingly spicy. Try it in a tulip glass to really take in the aromatics or pair it with some nutty biscotti after dinner.
St. Arnold Icon Blue
Part of the Houston brewery’s icon series, the blue is a chocolate milk stout featuring Mexican chocolate tablets from area chef Hugo Ortega. It’s sweet, but dialed-in thanks to a one-two counterpunch of bitterness thrown by the hops and coffee. And at 5.6% ABV, that punch won’t leave you floored.
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