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11-05-05

Beer Review #310 Coffee Ale

11-05-05I’m not a coffee drinker in the slightest, but I love coffee beer. Odd right? Some say that coffee is an acquired tasted, like beer, but I often find it to be to harshly bitter and not suitable to my palate. When I saw Boulevard Brewing Company’s Coffee Ale on the shelves I knew that I had to try it. This beer is part of their Smokestack Series and the label proudly reads, “malt beverage brewed with coffee.” It also comes in at 9.3% for a bit of an extra kick.

The coffee ale pours a dark brown and has a nice tan head. I was expecting a black colored beer, but brown is okay with me. The beer pours very creamy and the head sits solid, but only goes to a medium thickness in the glass. The nose is rocked with strong coffee odors. I didn’t get any hops or heat in the aroma but a touch of sweetness can be found.

The taste, like the nose, is packed with coffee. It’s strong, in charge, and yells “Coffee BEER!” Outside of the dominating coffee there is a slight caramel sweetness but nothing else to make note of. Instead of hop bitterness, this beer relies on the coffee to do the job. And it does it well.

The mouthfeel is very light and not nearly as creamy as the pour suggested. As far as coffee beers go, this is one of the stronger coffee flavors that I have found. I still found it very drinkable and packed with flavor. I’m no coffee nut, but there is a nice bouquet of coffee flavors that really add interest to this one. I’m not versed in coffee enough to explain the flavors, but I found them enjoyable and not over the top. This is a good one to try if you like coffee beers. (more…)

Coffee Amber Ale Recipe

I’ve been in the mood to test my homebrewing skills a creativity a bit and I decided that a coffee flavored beer that is amber in color was an excellent challenge. Most coffee beers are stouts or porters, which makes the color addition from coffee unnoticeable. What I wanted to do is make something similar to Peak Organic’s Espresso Amber Ale. It’s an excellent beer and captures the espresso flavor and keeps the color not black.

My homebrew store recently started carrying coffee malt so I decided to give it a try. It comes in at 175 °L, which is pretty dark. After purchasing a one pound bag of it I did find that it has some coffee aroma, but not enough. My wife is a big coffee drinker and grinds her own beans. This lead me to take 4oz. of cold water and 10 whole coffee beans. I put the beans in the water and left them in the water for a week. I dumped the results before I realized that I should grab a picture, but the color addition from the whole bean was not very high. However, the aroma and taste were very noticeable. Better yet, the aroma and flavor additions happened after a day or so, and the color didn’t change until day three.

I then structured a recipe around what I wanted to the malt to taste like. I knew that I wanted a toasty, roasty flavor. I also needed some sweetness to balance out the harsh roasted flavors. I had some crystal malts on hand to give some sweetness and light color additions as well as half a pound of Carabrown to give a toasted flavor. Below is what I came up with.

  • 10 lbs. 2-row
  • 1/2 lb. Carabrown (60 °L)
  • 1/2 lb. Coffee malt
  • 1/4 lb. Crystal 80
  • 1/2 lb. Light brown sugar
  • 1/2 oz. Magnum @ 60 mins
  • 1/2 oz. Magnum @ 15 mins

The final beer is expected to have the following specs:

  • OG: 1.059
  • FG: 1.015
  • ABV: 5.83%
  • IBUs: 36.5
  • SRM: 17.37

According to Wikipedia and a number of other sources that I checked amber ales can fall in anywhere between 15-33 SRM. I went on the lighter side so that any color addition from the whole beans would still keep the beer in the proper range.

I plan on fermenting the beer in the primary for two weeks and then move it over to a secondary. Two days before kegging I will add a handful of whole coffee beans to the secondary that were sanitized by sitting in whiskey or vodka for a day. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this one turns out. It’s a very non-typical beer for me as I generally don’t like adding extras to a beer. I’ve made one coffee beer before, a stout, and it turned out wonderfully. I hoping that I will like this one just as much and that I learn some things from it. It’s always fun to test yourself and take a bit of a chance.

Beer Review #118 Espresso Amber Ale

When I reviewed Pipeline Porter a few weeks ago I talked about how much I liked a coffee flavor/odor in beer while I don’t actually drink coffee as a normal drink. I first had Espresso Amber Ale when I was visiting Max’s Taphouse in Fell’s Point, which is a “hip” area in Baltimore. My wife actually ordered it and loved it. I saw this beer at my local beer store not soon after our trip to Max’s Taphouse and bought a four pack of it. This beer comes from Peak Organic Brewing Company of Portland, Maine. I’ve reviewed several other of their beers and enjoyed them all. This, however, is my first non-seasonal brew of theirs.

This amber ale pours a nice amber color and is perfectly clear. It has a thin, off-white head to accompany the liquid. The nose is super roasty coffee. I didn’t get any malt or hops, just coffee. Like the Pipeline Porter, this coffee is very fresh and smells fantastic.

On the first taste I got a very slight sweetness on the front, but coffee dominates everything else. I really dig this beer. As a homebrewer I am still scratching my head on how they were able to get such a strong coffee flavor without giving it a dark color. This beer isn’t heavy either, like a coffee stout would be. It fits into the medium mouthfeel neighborhood and is something super unique. One other note with this beer, it is made with locally roasted fair trade coffee and comes in at 6.8% ABV. If you see this beer try it out, it is something totally different in a beer market that does not have a lot of standout unique ideas. (more…)

07-21-01

Portland Breweries: McMenamins

07-21-01McMenamins is another chain that has dozens of locations in the Portland area. I know you are thinking that I traveled across the country to visit chain breweries; this is the last one. We went to the McMenamins Crystal Ball location. The funny thing is that have an additional bar the next block down. Weird.

McMenamins was a werid place overal, but I dug it. When Smalls and I entered there was a large bar area, and a decent seating area. Overtop the bar was a huge concoction of things. Broken glass, odd figures, bits and pieces of just about anything. It gave a folky vibe, which for an Irish place, is somewhat fitting. Smalls and I ordered our normal water and sampler.

In the sampler was a fruit beer, pale ale, stout, pilsner, wheat, and a porter. Most Portland breweries seemed to have a good selection of brews that run the gambit. To start out with we had the Pilsner called Bagdad Ale. It was a pretty tasty Pilsner with nice sutble flavors that would be perfect on a hot day. It was a great example of how you can use ale yeast for a lager. We then moved onto the wheat named Edgefield Wheat. I was alright, a typical American Wheat which some not subtle flavors but nothing to write home about.

The fruit beer was next on the list. It was called the Ruby and was pinkish in color. I never really had a beer that was that color before, so I was a little werided out. It is brewed a puree of Oregon grown raspberries as well. IF you have read this blog in the past, you know I’m not a fan of fruit beers, and this one did not agree with me. It was too sweet, to overly fruited (is that even correct english?) and there was nothing other than fruit. Not a fan.

Terminator Stout was McMenamins offering of a stout. Pretty typical flavors, mouthfeel, and aftertaste. I enjoyed it, but then again a typical tasting stout is pretty good on its own. Black Rabbit Porter was pretty excellent. It had a nice coffee flavor to it and Smalls promptly called dibs on it after tasting. Is it weird that I don’t like coffee, but I like coffee flavors in beer? Just saying. The final beer we had at McMenamins was their top seller, a pale ale, Hammerhead. It was a bit higher in hops than what I like in a pale ale but it was well balanced and fit the name. It was clean and really hit the spot.

The food wasn’t half bad at McMenamins either.  We got there for the lunch special and got all of our food and beer for under $25. Being that we had a $25 gift certificate, we each ordered another pint to finish it off. I got the Hammerhead and Smalls decided on the Pils. Pretty good place, both beer and food were not up to the standards of some of the future breweries I will write about from Portland. I would put the beer slightly behind Rock Bottom, and the food way behind it.