|Beau's Winterbrewed is a collaborative effort between Bridgehead Coffee and Beau's Brewery in VanKleek Hill, Ont. (Supplied)
There is a saying that it takes a lot of beer to make wine. It’s worth noting that it takes a lot of coffee to make beer.
If you’re a brewer and you’re trying to get two brews done in a single day, you’re going to be getting up very early in the morning. You probably don’t want to be interacting with the extremely hot metal equipment involved in brewing unless you’re fully awake; you might injure yourself, or, worse yet, make a mistake and have to lose an entire batch.
It’s probably for this reason that brewers are enamored of adding coffee flavours to their beers. The most traditional way to do this is to simulate the flavour of coffee by using barley malt with a significant amount of roast character to it. In some cases, they will reinforce the flavour with coffee beans at some point in the brewing process. For the most part, these beers are Stouts or Porters, with a big flavour profile and a lot of attitude. They’re about as subtle as a sledgehammer, and that’s intentional, because if the label says coffee, you might feel cheated if it doesn’t slap you across the face.
It is possible, however to make nuance a priority in beer made with coffee. There are two newly released examples in Canada that will play with your expectations.
Beau’s Winterbrewed is a collaborative effort between Bridgehead Coffee and Beau’s Brewery in VanKleek Hill, Ont. Rather than adding coffee character with roasted malt, the beer is blended with a significant amount of brewed coffee, meaning that the resulting taste is fairly light, leaning towards something like a Double-Double that tops out at 6.0% alcohol.
Rather than coffee bitterness, the fact that the beer starts out as an Amber Ale means that there are some pleasantly earthy tones and some gentle hop aromas. It’s brewed annually for Ottawa’s Winterlude celebrations, and is currently available across Ontario.
Kelowna’s Tree Brewing recently released Molto Bella Espresso IPA, which is an altogether different expression of coffee character and a departure from the conventional wisdom that coffee goes in dark beers. Based in part on Tree’s Hop Head IPA, Molto Bella is the result of a partnership with Giobean Espresso and evocative of an Italian bistro right down to the flag on the label.
The beer may be light in alcohol, but it doesn’t disappoint in terms of flavour. Since Hop Head is a bitter IPA with a lot of citrus character, the espresso seems to actually reinforce the bitterness as they come through on the palate at the same time. This will make sense if you’ve ever had an after dinner espresso that comes with a twist of lemon rind. I can’t imagine that it will be to everyone’s taste, but it’s a truly interesting experiment.