Coffee Bender from Surly Brewing, Espresso Oak Aged Yeti from Great Divide Brewing, Big Bad Baptist from Epic Brewing… These are the beers that first come to mind when we think of the delicious harmony between beer and coffee. The rich, roasted flavors of dark beers like stouts and doppelbocks impart themselves wholly to the beauty of the coffee bean making these collaborations almost a staple for many great brewing companies. So obviously, in Denver fashion, an event was created to highlight both of these delicious craft beverages.
Steve Kurowski of the Colorado Brewer’s Guild and Chris Schooley of the Rocky Mountain Craft Coffee Alliance opened the sold-out event, which was held in Epic Brewing Company’s taproom. Between sips of Big Bad Baptist, guests listened to brewers and roasters discuss all things coffee and beer. Brewers from Epic talked alongside Erich Rosenberg from Novo Coffee about the process of the Big Bad Baptist, that each batch takes 1 ½ pounds of coffee per barrel and 2 pounds of cocoa nibs per barrel, and how the different local coffees at each of the two breweries affect the taste.
Linsey Cornish of Horse & Dragon Brewing Company, with help from Chris Schooley explained how she went from a brewer at Odell who hated coffee to someone who appreciates the different types of aromas and flavors a great coffee can add to any beer, and how she incorporated it into some of the most unsuspecting brews. One of the beers she elaborated on was the Mercenary IPA. Chris was able to show her that the right coffee can also possess citrus and floral flavors, and she was able to use that floral essence to compliment the hops in the delectable double IPA.
Rounding out the informational portion of the morning, Brian O’Connell from Renegade Brewing gave a quick overview of the Imperial Sunday Morning coffee red ale and what makes the beer special and unique since it seems to be a crowd pleaser at the brewery.
The event then moved into the second half – the tasting portion. It was a very unique, and messy, experience. There were five coffees, each from a different local roasting facility, and five beers from Epic that were to be mixed and matched throughout the morning. Each table came equipped with both a beer and coffee expert to tackle the tough questions about their respective beverages. Most of the questions were along the lines of “I accidentally switched up all my coffees and now I have no idea which one is which… please help!”
After smelling each of the coffee grounds, pouring boiling hot water over them, and “breaking the crust” to get the freshest aroma, we were able to start putting together some of the concoctions. The goal was to experiment with the different beers and coffees to see how each complimented or contrasted with each other, and to find a few coffee and beer pairings that really stood out. Since the event was limited to 30 or so people, guests had the chance to talk with each other, brewers, roasters, and coffee shop owners from all over the Front Range over the course of this 45 minute portion. The intimate and relaxed setting really allowed for a great Saturday morning event – as did the delicious coffee and beer.
It was interesting to see how subjective the process was – everyone had their own preference when it came to the different beers and coffees. Highlights for some included the Elder Brett which paired really well with all of the coffees. For others it was the Cold Brew coffee from the Bean Cycle that they thought accented most of the beers well. Another favorite concoction was the Imperial Red Ale with the Novo Coffee (a Panama Hartmann Estate Ojo dry process Cascara coffee). No pairing was off limits. We even experimented with using all 10 of the ingredients, similar to an 8-year-old at the 7-11 Slurpee machine (it actually wasn’t as bad as one might expect).
The event ended with a discussion surrounding favorite pairings, as well as which beers and coffees seemed to be most universal to creating a delicious drink, and any provoking thoughts the table may have had while becoming slightly buzzed and caffeinated over the course of the morning.
My knowledge of coffee prior to Brewed was nothing more than the understanding that I preferred a pour over coffee from Black Eye Coffee or Little Owl to many of the chain-style coffee shops, and that everything is better than what they try to pass off as coffee in my office. Now I can tell you that I liked the Columbian and Ethiopian coffees the best, and have already started taking that into consideration when picking between daily roasts at a coffee shop. Brewed also gave me a better appreciation for coffee beers and all the different things you can do with it. It’s not just the coffee stout anymore. I want to continue experimenting with different coffees and beer, and perhaps homebrew a coffee based IPA or red ale.
Beer gives the luxury of experimentation, and Brewed showed how even slight variations can dramatically affect the taste. The beauty of beer is that there are never-ending options to what you can brew. Hopefully the success of this event sparks some new and creative ideas in the roasters, the brewers, and the guests, and perhaps also leads to more collaborations between different craft industries throughout the state.
Epic Brewing Company beers included the Elder Brett: Saison-Brett Golden Ale, the Brainless Belgian-Style Golden Ale, the Glutenator Gluten-Free Beer, the Imperial Red Ale, and the Imperial IPA.
Coffee used for the event included Novo’s Panama Hartmann Estate Ojo dry process, Cascara; Huckleberry’s Kenya Kiaga AA washed; Bean Cycle’s Cold Brew (Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia/Ethiopia/Brazil blend); Ozo’s Colombia Huila, Pitalito; and Corvus’ Washed Ethiopia Teklu Dembel.