I love beer. I also love coffee. Luckily, you can have both with breweries that incorporate coffee into some of their beers. Coffee porters, coffee stouts, even coffee IPAs are available from many different breweries today, and when done well, are a great way to get a little coffee with your beer.
It’s football season, which means many of us will be up just a little bit earlier on Saturdays or Sundays to catch the pre-game shows, start the barbecue, or get to our buddy’s stadium tailgate. That means you’re probably having some beer earlier than you would on a typical day (unless, like me, you write about beer, which means it’s always beer time). So, why not have a little coffee in your early beer?
It’s unclear how long people have been brewing coffee flavors into beer, but it likely dates back to the early 1990s, maybe earlier. It’s the perfect combination of a stimulant (coffee) and a depressant (beer). The modern “hip” version of that combo is an energy drink mixed with a hard liquor, something you can get in various forms at clubs and bars. But let’s be honest: coffee and beer is so much better than a Monster and vodka.
The Best in Coffee Beer
So what are the best beers that incorporate coffee? Mostly stouts and porters, the dark rich beers that benefit from coffee and their associated vanilla and chocolate flavors. I tried three for this column: one local stout, a porter from Detroit, and an IPA from a widely available micro-brewery.
Let’s start with Crossroads, a coffee stout from one of my favorite local Austin breweries, South Austin Brewery. This dark stout has a lighter mouth feel, with more carbonization than you might expect. They describe it as a “deep mellow” beer with “an espresso-addled soul.”
Made with Casa Brasil Coffee, a small coffee company in Austin that sources its beans directly from growers in Brazil, it has a good and not overpowering coffee flavor. Although you may not be able to get this particular coffee stout in your grocery store, other good examples include; the Breakfast Stout from Founder’s Brewing, or the Cappuccino Stout from Lagunitas.
Now let’s move to a porter, perhaps my favorite vehicle for coffee flavors in beer. Porters are the perfect rich, thick base for adding coffee and complementary flavors like vanilla or chocolate. The Vanilla Java Porter from Atwater Brewery in Detroit is the perfect example of a rich coffee porter. As the name indicates, this beer doesn’t just have a bit of coffee, but also some vanilla. This creates a beer that’s almost a combination of a vanilla-flavored coffee drink you might get at Starbucks, and a nearly perfect porter.
I really love this beer! It’s not just a good breakfast beer, but it would also make for a great dessert beer. (I’ll do an entire article in the future about beer milkshakes, the best accompaniment to a good movie.) If I can find this beer in Austin, Texas, you might be able to find it in your local grocery or liquor store. In case you can’t, a few other good coffee porters include; Victory at Sea from Ballast Point Brewing, and Rogue’s Allegro Coffee Porter.
Finally, I had the Stone Mocha IPA. An IPA with coffee? Sounds odd, but it actually works. This is a double IPA, with chocolate and beer flavors. It mixes the bitterness of hops and the bitterness of coffee with the richness that comes from cacao. It’s not the potential dessert beer that you get from a coffee stout; it’s definitely in the breakfast or afternoon coffee beer category. If you’re looking to try a coffee beer outside of the typical stout or porter, this coffee-chocolate-citrus combo is a good place to start. If you’re making some jerk chicken on the grill for your favorite football game this fall, try pairing it with this beer.
The coffee and beer combo might sound a little odd at first, but with these beers you can start to explore the wonderful world of beer for breakfast. You’re welcome.