Pushing boundaries seems to be the current state in the evolution of the craft beer industry. There are thousands of breweries now, with many gaining a national footprint, so distinguishing oneself is crucial. In the pursuit of creating a truly unique beer comes much tinkering and tweaking of recipes.
One example is Founders’ KBS, one of the most famous beers in a line that now is a craft beer staple — the bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout. It was conceived when Founders owner Dave Engbers washed down some chocolate covered espresso beans with a glass of porter.
That kind of experimentation is one of my favorite things about beers. The endless combinations of recipes and barrel-aging make for beers that seem, on the surface, ridiculous. It also makes them intriguing.
Another beer that comes to mind is Bell’s Neptune, with a laundry list of ingredients that includes: dried cayenne, raisins, dates, black pepper, hickory bark, dandelion root, nutmeg, grains of paradise and fenugreek seeds. Can all those ingredients possibly blend together while, at the same time, being recognizable to even the most refined palate?
The immediate coffee aroma and creamy body is a winning combination, despite its odd look from an outside perspective.”
Odd Side Ales’ Bean Flicker is hardly revolutionary. But in my craft beer tasting infancy, it sure seemed like something completely out of left field. A light-bodied blonde ale with coffee? Okay, I’ll try it, but I’m very skeptical. The immediate coffee aroma and creamy body is a winning combination, despite its odd look from an outside perspective.
Take, for a minute, my brother-in-law. He is the epitome of a rural Michigan male. He is a guide for The Sanctuary, the mecca of whitetail deer hunting. He’s the most successful and most active fisherman I know. A common accessory of his large frame is a Founders Dirty Bastard. He can put away several, which is impressive for an 8.5% alcohol by volume scotch ale.
This past Christmas, I noticed he strayed from the usual sixer of Dirty Bastard and had an Odd Side Ales Bean Flicker among an array of dark beers. I took note of this because it seemed like a coffee blonde is something I wouldn’t have guessed he would like; he’s not a big coffee drinker and tends to favor stronger alcohol dark beers.
Bean Flicker fit in his lineup, though, while being different. Coffee and dark beer is a natural pairing, but a lighter beer with coffee at the forefront combines into something resembling a snickerdoodle cookie. The coffee is at the forefront but not overpowering, very smoothly tucked in. Subtlety, toffee, and caramel are the initial impressions.
That isn’t to say this is a dessert beer. It’s not cloyingly sweet – the bitterness of the coffee balances that out in the finish. This is simply a welcome alternative for any coffee-loving beer enthusiastic looking for a break from a coffee porter or coffee stout. And unlike a dessert beer, Bean Flicker is a beer you’re inclined to have more than one of, because of the low alcohol content and the body.
It may not go to the innovative extreme of, say, a peanut butter and jelly beer or gin and tonic beer, but at Bean Flicker's core is a battle between a sweet blonde and a bitter coffee. You might be lured in by the coffee or because of curiosity, but the sweet, creamy aftertaste is one worth revisiting.