Throughout its long history, beer has always been for the common man and woman; something to drink in celebration and in consolation. I don’t want to go a day without it. The same goes for my other favorite liquid companion: Coffee. So it got me thinking…what if I added cold brew coffee to popular beers in a multitude of styles? And also, is this a horrible idea?
Spoiler alert: It was not. I’d previously whipped up some delicious, quick and dirty colabiers in my kitchen, and I thought cold brew coffee + beer might yield some equally successful brews. And sure, plenty of beers already have coffee in them—there’s coffee stouts and porters, and even IPAs. But what if I added java to the coffee-free beers I already had in my fridge?
So, that’s what I did. The folks at Wandering Bear sent me samples of their super strong, organic cold brew black coffee, which I poured into six different beers from breweries across the country. My samples had equal parts cold brew and beer. It’s so simple that you can, and should, try it at home.
Vienna Cream Ale: Mike Hess Brewing of San Diego Grazias
What it tastes like on its own: The description on the can promises chocolate, vanilla, and light toast. It delivers on all three. Cream soda vibes in this glass, for sure. I thought the flavor profile of a Vienna lager would make sense with coffee, but now I’m not so sure. Cream soda and coffee sounds horrible. Wish me luck.
What it tastes like with coffee: This is fantastic. This reminds me of a cold brew and seltzer combination I had at an Intelligentsia in Chicago. It was hot out, and it was just the refresher I needed. Despite not being a huge fan of beer cocktails, I could easily see myself putting away one or two of these at brunch. The chocolate notes from the Grazias are still present, and pairing this with some vanilla bean french toast on a Saturday morning after recovering from a late Friday night out is a decadent option. Ok, fine, it’s more likely that I never left my home and just stayed up too late binge watching Love on Netflix.
American IPA: Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project IPA
What the beer tastes like on its own: You might have a good idea of what to expect from this cloudy beer once you pour it into a glass. This is a tropically fruity treat, and I’m scared I’m going to ruin it with beer. I’m especially scared because I’ve had a few coffee IPAs before, and I wasn’t a huge fan of any of them. But this is an experiment, and I’m going to try it, dammit!
What it tastes like with coffee: The IPA and the coffee are fighting for dominance of my tastebuds. I’m strangely getting equal amounts coffee and lemon, which Eater tells me is a thing. The flavor combination might work for some people, but it doesn’t work in this specific situation for me. It’s not bad, necessarily, but drinking this just makes me want to get a six pack of the Crooked Stave IPA on its own and finish it. Sometimes cold brew and beer just don’t mix, I guess.
Barleywine: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Bigfoot
What it tastes like on its own: I’ve never had Sierra Nevada’s classic Bigfoot, which they’ve been brewing since 1983. And I’m disappointed in myself for not drinking it until now. What a beautiful beast of a beer. The alcohol is hidden well. So well that I’m worried I shouldn’t have done this taste-test on an empty stomach. I have a strong feeling this is going to go great with coffee. Plenty of my favorite coffee beers have a huge malt backbone, and Bigfoot fits that bill.
What it tastes like with coffee: Holy moly. Can Sierra Nevada make a coffee variant of this? Seriously. While coffee barleywines exist out there, they’re not nearly as prevalent as coffee stouts or porters, and that is a damn shame. I’ve never had a coffee barleywine before, but I need to get my hands on one now. Combining these two forms a rich, creamy drink that even someone who claims to not like barleywine will love. I honestly can’t stop drinking it, and now I very much need to eat something.
Belgian: Avery Brewing Co. The Reverend
What it tastes like on its own: Great news, I found a stash of Girl Scout cookies in my kitchen and now I have enough in my stomach to taste some more big beers with coffee. This Reverend is not messing around. As a proud Coloradan beer lover, I am required by law to love Boulder-based Avery’s brews, but I’d love them even if it weren’t compulsory. The can points out dark cherries, currants, and molasses—I’m just going to cut to the chase and says this Belgian quad tastes like pure heaven. It’s one of those beers to enjoy after a heavy dinner, at the end of a long week, when you’re very close to your bed. Let’s see what it tastes like with coffee!
What it tastes like with coffee: We have another winner! If you’re a fan of African coffees—many of which impart cherry notes—you’re going to love this coffee with a Belgian quad, as it comes equipped with plenty of those cherry notes on its own. The coffee overpowers the molasses, which could be a good thing depending on how you feel about molasses notes. Overall, the coffee flavors sync up with what’s delicious about the Reverend, and it goes down so easily that if someone handed you a glass, you might wonder where you can find this coffee beer.
Stout: Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
What it tastes like on its own: A creamy chocolate bomb wrapped in velvet. When I was a younger man, with more hair on the top of my head, I had my first Guinness. Around that time, I also tried a double chocolate stout. I didn’t know brewers could put chocolate in a beer, but they can and still do. I haven’t had one of these in a long time, but it holds up. I can’t wait to pour coffee in this sucker.
What it tastes like with coffee: Looks like I’ve accidentally discovered how to make Young’s taste even more decadent: Add coffee. It blends so perfectly that I wonder if it was made to take a shot of java. This is the boozy Mocha Frappuccino you never knew you needed. And now I’m starting to think all brunch spots should offer a shot of cold brew with selected beers.
Porter: Oskar Blues Brewery Death by Coconut
What it tastes like on its own: If heaven made a beer, it would taste like this. It’s like a porter and a coconut had a baby, and that baby was made of chocolate. My metaphors need work, but suffice it to say, this is an all-timer in the coconut beer pantheon. And I bet it’ll taste great with coffee.
What it tastes like with coffee: The coconut notes were so strong that even in the combined drink, I kept needing to add coffee to even get a hint of it. No other beer overwhelmed the coffee like this. After adding another serving of cold brew, the coconut notes faded and the coffee came to the forefront. It was undeniably pleasant to drink, but considering the Oskar Blues founder has his own coffee roastery, maybe just track down the collaboration beer Hotbox Coffee Porter, and leave the blending to the experts. Just this one time.