“Coffee: The Drink that Changed America” will be aired on WFYI-TV1 on March 9 at 9:30 p.m., with a repeat on March 12 at 3:30 p.m. The promo reads, “Grab a cup of java and follow America’s love affair with the red bean.” Featured are nationally known coffee roaster Dean Cycon and food lover Judith Jones, who trace the story from the Middle East to us.
Coffee and beer separately are nice; together they can be WOW. On my shelves along with books on beer are A History of the World in 6 Glasses: Beer, Wine, Spirits, Coffee, Tea, Coca-Cola and the thriller novel The Coffee Trader. I could not resist delving into how the partnering of coffee and beer happens in our Indiana breweries, so I asked the brewers what draws them to add real coffee to the recipe of a base beer, such as porter or stout.
The Beer Judge Certification Program guideline for coffee beer falls into Category 21A, which is any beer with an addition of “spices, herbs and/or vegetables (SHV).” Here’s a summary of what a beer judge looks for: the character of the particular spices, herbs and/or vegetables (SHV) should be noticeable in the aroma and flavor and should be pleasant and supportive, not artificial and overpowering and may range in intensity from subtle to aggressive. As with all specialty beers, a proper coffee beer should be a harmonious balance of the featured coffee with the underlying beer style such as porter and stout. Do not expect the base beer to taste the same as the unadulterated version. Judge the beer based on the pleasantness and balance of the resulting combination.
Brewers from across Indiana shared their particular passion and way of brewing a coffee beer to inspire you to select a pint of your favorite coffee porter, coffee stout or even coffee blonde ale to savor as you view the documentary.
Nick Davidson, president/co-founder/brewer of Evansville-based Tin Man Brewing Company, explained, “When we were in the process of creating Cafe Leche: Milk + Coffee Porter, we were thinking of a porter from the beginning. A porter already has inherent coffee flavors and I think people’s brains are wired to expect a coffee beer to be dark. Not that I think that a blonde coffee ale is wrong, but for us we wanted the whole experience of the beer to be reminiscent of coffee. That’s why we also add lactose to the beer like some people add sugar and milk to their coffee.”
Responding to what he seeks in the recipe to make Tin Man’s coffee brew distinctive, Nick said, “We wanted an end product that was beer with coffee, not coffee beer. We use that distinction because at the end of the day we want our beer to still taste like beer. The next goal was to make sure we didn’t have the coffee bitterness that comes from brewing coffee with hot water. We use cold brew coffee in our recipe. Adding lactose, also known as milk sugar, gives our beer a slight sweetness that melds well with the Guatemalan coffee that we use.”
Of the two major varieties of coffee grown—robusta and arabica— I wanted to know why brewers chose one over the other.
“Arabica is the way to go!” Nick responded enthusiastically. “Arabica has less caffeine which sounds like a drawback, but caffeine has a bitter taste and we didn’t want that in Cafe Leche. Arabica also has twice the sugar content compared to robusta and is, in my opinion, generally more pleasant taste-wise.”
I wondered about sourcing from local coffee roasters and how they work together for greatest advantage to showcase the quality of both the roasted coffee and the brewed beer.
“We work with a local Evansville coffee roaster, TJ’s Roasters. Terry and Jody Van Bibber, the owners, are great people and have an awesome product. My wife and I pretty much drink their Guatemalan blend exclusively. Both of our businesses are family owned and are very supportive towards each other,” commented Nick. “We help promote each other generally through word of mouth, but we also gave TJ's a mention on our can as well.”
Finally, I wondered about particular/peculiar challenges.
“It requires a bit of planning to coordinate the timing of the beer and coffee to end at the same time,” confirmed Nick. “We also ended up having to buy a small tank just to cold brew the coffee due to the popularity.”
Triton Brewing co-founder David Waldman informed, “We are currently pouring Bee Java Porter (2016). The beans for this ale were roasted locally by Bee Coffee Roasters. The porter is an American-style porter (5% ABV; 30 IBUs). It was infused with a dark roasted Tanzanian Peaberry; very roasty and great. It is very natural for us to produce a beer like this. With Jon’s Silver Medal from the GABF for a coffee-infused beer, and with such a great partner like Bee Coffee Roasters, it is (at minimum) an annual collaboration. We usually brew coffee beers a couple times a year. We also do French presses of the Bee Coffee in our tasting room. Coffee is our third favorite beverage, after beer and water, respectively. We will always make a coffee beer.”
I asked Triton co-founder/Brewmaster, Jon Lang, about his association with coffee beers.
His reply: “I didn't play around with coffee as a homebrewer. It was when I was working at Barley Island that I started experimenting with coffee. There is/was a little roaster on the square in Noblesville that taught me a lot about coffee and how it is brewed. He showed me the difference between all the ways to hot brew and cold brew and the differences in the flavors. What I learned from him was that I didn't like the hot brewed method and I did like the cold brew process; which doesn't add a lot of water to my beer either. The hot brew added more bitterness than the cold brew. That is why I didn't even try to add the coffee to the hot side of the brewing process. I made a cold brewed concentrate. Later on I thought why am I making a cold brewed coffee with water and blending it with the beer. So I started experimenting with just soaking the coffee in the beer for a day or so. I'd take a few growlers of beer and add different coffees to the beer to find my flavors. That's when I found out that I loved Black Majic Coffee from Noble Coffee and Tea, mixed with an oatmeal stout, which is an easy blend because the beer already has some coffee, roasty notes to it.
Since then, Sandy [Cockerham] and BJ [Davis] at Bee Roasters have shown me some other coffees and flavor combinations. Like a lighter beer with a fruity coffee and an IPA with a medium roasted fruity coffee. We make all sorts of different combinations now. I do stick with a low acidic coffee, but other than that we like to play around. Because we have some roasters in town that really understand beer, we can exchange a few emails and come up with a great combination. We'll make a few different small batches throughout the year.”
I then asked Sandy Cockerham to add her insights.
“I knew Jon from Barley Island, but got to know him better when we took Ron [Smith’s] BJCP [Beer Judge Certification Program] class together in 2007, to become beer judges. That’s longer than we have been roasting our own coffee at the shop. When Triton was formed  we talked about coffee beer collaborations and have been doing them ever since,” adding more history. “We started roasting coffee at Bee Coffee (then called Bjava Coffee) in January of 2009. Later that year my friend, Jim Matt, introduced me to Dave Colt at Sun King, and Dave and I talked about coffee beers and working together on a coffee infused version of their house beer, Wee Mac. Sun King was our first collaboration partner, and they still are partners. Award-winning Java Mac — with our coffee — was the first coffee beer put into a can.”
Expanding on the Triton collaboration, Sandy explains, “We made plans for Jon to work with us at Triton and we have since had multiple collaborations. Jon is always eager to hear what we have to say and then like a good brewer, goes off and does what he wants with that information. He trusts us totally to provide him with a coffee that is going to work with his beer.”
Barley Island’s Black Majic Java Stout, brewed by Jon, earned Gold at the 2006 Indiana State Fair Brewers’ Cup and Silver at the 2006 Great American Beer Festival. It’s been on the go-to roster for serious coffee beer enthusiasts ever since.
I asked Sandy how she and BJ work towards creating partnerships with brewers. “As roasters, we do cuppings [akin to a wine tasting] of new coffees that we are thinking about buying so that we can determine how they taste across the temperature range. We are always looking for clean coffees with interesting varietal characters and then we work to find a roast level to bring that out the best that we can; we look for the 'sweet spot' for that coffee. At Bee, most of the roasts we do are lighter roasts that preserve the fruity tones a coffee has to offer. We only offer one dark roast and we advise brewers not to use that in beer. I like to say, "Brewers know how to make a beer to have roast aroma and flavors, they don't need that from the coffee!" Let the coffee be interesting, not just roasty.”
I asked about Bee Coffee’s other partners. “Along the way we have worked with Fountain Square Brewing, Flat 12 Bierwerks and Rock Bottom College Park (when Liz Laughlin still brewed there),” recounted Sandy. “Lately we have cycled into Andrew Castner's coffee rotation of coffee beers for his Kegs 'n Eggs at MashCraft on a regular basis. As longtime Irvington natives, we are very happy to work with our friends at Black Acre on their coffee beers. Our pal Spencer Mason, at Grand Junction, has used our coffee in a well received stout, and Great Fermentations homebrew shop uses our Guatemalan coffee in their coffee beer kit. We aren't only working with the beer community, New Day Craft Meadery uses our coffee in their popular Breakfast Magpie.
“I tell professional brewers and homebrewers alike, taste the coffee you are going to use. Make sure it tastes good and make sure it tastes good cold. Some coffees we have cupped, especially the lighter roasts, can go sour when they cool. That is not a flavor a brewer wants to impart to their coffee beer. We know how our coffees will taste cold and we try to steer brewers to something that will work well with their beer.”
Sandy, a long time homebrewer trained as a judge, quips “BJ likes to say Bee Coffee is the only roaster in town with a beer judge as part of the roasting staff,” adding, “BJ is the coffee person who along the way has learned quite a bit about beer and is really good at matching coffees to beer for brewers. Bee Coffee also has a barrel program and has aged green coffees in rye whiskey barrels, beer barrels and Breakfast Magpie barrels. Some of that has been roasted and then gone back into beer,” wraps up Sandy.
Bobby Yates, at Twenty Below, just might have the most unique coffee roaster collaborator—his father, Tracey Yates, who established Mile Square Coffee Roastery in 2014 at 12 E. Ray St. [Ray and Charles], a few blocks from where he grew up. Tracey Yates and I had a telephone conversation. “I try to follow Bobby’s lead,” he told me. “When he tells me ‘this is the beer I’d like to produce,”’ I put together samples to help find the right roast for what he wants. It’s two beverages with distinct qualities having to pair well together.” Bobby explained, “I tend to add coffee to dark beers. There is the inherent roast flavor of the highly kilned malts which give a nice backbone to a coffee infused beer. Having the strong backbone allows for a softer, more delicate coffee flavor to be targeted and added to the beer. My goal when adding coffee to beer is always that it will have a home in the flavor profile as a whole, not a dominant "how caffeinated is this!"overpowering coffee flavor. To find the best coffee to achieve this balance, I turn to my father at Mile Square Coffee Roaster. I tend to only use single origin coffee over blends, and he is very knowledgeable and helpful.”
Keely Thomlinson, brewmaster at Thr3e Wise Men said, “I am personally not a blonde coffee ale type of a person. I think the reason that the darker beers tend to work with coffee so well is that they have the flavor to stand up to coffee. It is very easy for the coffee to overwhelm the beer, and you need those strong roast and chocolate flavors to not get lost in the shuffle. I want to create a beer that will stand up to the strong flavor of coffee. I want something that will give you all that great aroma and coffee flavor, but not end with a harsh bitterness. We try to make our porter full-bodied and sweet, so once you add that coffee to it there is a nice smooth balance. We work with Hubbard and Cravens to get our coffee. We have gone through several different varieties of coffee with them and they have always been receptive to our feedback. Right now we are using a roast from Guatemala that we really like. It has a really nice flavor and adds everything we want to the beer. We have changed our method of adding the coffee several times. We have gone from throwing it in the mash, to cold brewing and adding in the boil, and finally to add in the fermenter. It has been a process of experimentation to see what works best. For us also, it has been all about keeping the mash temp high enough to finish with enough gravity to balance out the bitterness and acidity you get from coffee.”
Head brewer from Flat 12, Sean Lewis, underscores the obvious: “Here at Flat 12 we have pushed the limits of traditional beer, as you know, adding any kind of ingredients imaginable including coffee. It has been added to most styles you would think would be common — dark and roasty stouts, porters and browns; used not only to complement those characteristics, but also add a level of complexity. We also have used coffee in our blonde and IPA; which, at first, I thought was going to be a terrible idea but I was pleasantly surprised at how well a light roasted coffee went with the blonde, and how well the added flavor of chicory coffee goes with our IPA. It seems there is almost a natural pairing of lighter roasts with lighter beers and stronger, darker roasts with darker beers. I personally like a nice nutty Brazilian roast with a brown ale.
But this — of course — is all subject to personal taste.”
I stopped in at BRBP just when Dark Hero Coffee Milk Stout came on tap. Brewmaster Jonathon Mullens was in the middle of brewing, so general manager Billy Hannon shared the story. “Dark Hero is a dark chocolate java milk stout. Our friends, Joan and Dill, from Strange Brew coffee shop in Greenwood, created a dark chocolate flavored coffee exclusively for the Brewpub to infuse into a milk stout. The result is a coffee forward roasty beer with a big, flavorful mouth feel and hints of dark chocolate in the finish. This beer contains caffeine and milk sugar.” There’s more to the story but you’ll have to get that directly from the source—ask how Dark Hero came about when you’re next at BRBP.
And, for the record, I asked who in Indiana created the first coffee beer — best I could learn from the ‘old time brewers’ was BRBP around 1998, soon after followed by other brewers. That’s the way it goes—someone brews a non-traditional style, others want to try their skills with a distinctive twist of their own.
Java Stout goes up at Oaken Barrel; before someone living north of Greenwood can get into the car, the folks of Johnson County drink it up in successive pints and carry it home in growlers. “Java Stout is gone,” tweets owner, Kwang Casey. It’s the repeat story for a conversation in 2008, when I asked Kwang about Java Stout. “It flew out the door,” said Kwang. Andrew Castner reminds me often, “You know, I didn’t get a chance to speak at that interview,” but I don’t feel too sorry for him. It’s common knowledge his personal take on a coffee stout has since been talking on its own at MashCraft Brewing Co.; the brewery he opened in Greenwood two years ago.
Indiana City's Mimi's Tabernacle Bourbon Barrel-Aged Breakfast Stout is brewed with pure maple syrup, chocolate and oats, then infused with locally roasted coffee beans and aged in a Kentucky bourbon barrel. The end result is a rich barrel-aged breakfast stout with a smooth bourbon finish. Ask the brewers why? “Mimi would love that this bold, expressive beer is named in her memory.”
Chris Knot, head brewer at FLIX Brewhouse replied, “Porter and stout are the obvious beer styles to add coffee to because the flavors complement each other so well. Personally, I think a coffee addition lends itself well to any malt forward beer style: wee heavy, Irish red, bock, etc. That said, I had a coffee IPA at the Magic Hat Brewery while on vacation a while back, and it made a lasting impression on me. The acidity of the coffee worked well with the bitterness of the hops. One of the great benefits of working with local roasters is being able to find different flavor profiles. There is a myriad of single origin beans and roasting techniques to cater to your brew. When brewing a stout or porter I tend to favor a coffee variety with low acidity because the roasted grains in the beer recipe already have an inherent acidity. Sumatra is always a crowd pleaser for that purpose. Honestly, I’m still a novice when it comes to coffee. As far as I know, arabica is the only variety I’ve used in beer. It seems to be the most common. I’ve worked with Liberation and Bee Coffee in the past. For Bovine Buzz, our espresso milk stout, I worked with Andy Hall, from Liberation, to create a blend featuring more floral and earthy flavors, with a touch of fruit. I plan on working with Liberation and Bee again for special batches this year. All of the variety choices can be intimidating for a novice like me. It’s nice working with local roasters you can trust to deliver a great product. They are the experts in their field and very accessible for collaboration.
At Mad Anthony: Jonesing for Java is a limited “out-of-the-box” edition of an English-Style robust porter, it's infused with a proprietary coffee blend developed and roasted at Fort Wayne’s Old Crown Coffee Roasters, with the assistance of Mad Anthony’s brewers. “This Madbrew features a deep chocolate quality and satisfying earthy notes with a delicious coffee kick,” says Mad Anthony founder Blaine Stuckey.
One of the best guidelines I’ve read regarding coffee beer is a column in Brew Magazine by Jon Sitka [Sept. 2007]
When I was researching for the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beer Tasting, I wondered about the origin of beers beyond the traditional styles we inherited from ‘old world centers.’ Charlie Papazian was the earliest reference I could find — once again reminding me that U.S. homebrewers tend to push the frontiers — then I came across the wife/husband entrepreneurial team at New Glarus in Wisconsin, generally thought of as the first to commercially brew a coffee beer. The trouble they had with their coffee stout gaining federal approval in 1994 is a classic case of ‘it’s never-been-done’ hitting up against ‘hey-let’s-do-it’.
And, for the record, since March is Women’s History Month, I get to share a bonus bit of information— Deborah Carey raised the capital to start New Glarus in 1993, so she is considered to be the first female to found/own a modern day craft brewery. Mrs. C.F. Schmidt was the first female owner of a pre-Prohibition production brewery in Indiana —she successfully ran the brewery for fifteen years. Her sons to took over after her death.
Bret Robison posted a fetching overview of how coffee & beer became a regular we expect to see at any and every craft brewery—see: https://www.divinebrew.com/education/trouble-brewing-a-brief-history-of-coffee-beer/
Bloomington Brewing and Lennie’s are hosting the March 10, Back Country Session IPA Launch Party, to benefit Indiana Forest Alliance Group.
Oaken Barrel owner Kwang Casey reports, “German Pale Lager is on tap. It is the first time we have brewed this style of beer. It is similar to a Dortmunder; with a bright golden hue with nice malt balance and Noble German hops. This beer was created and brewed by our lead brewer Sara Galloway. Sara is gaining notoriety in Indiana Brewing scene not only as a female brewer, but one of the great brewers in the industry. Try one for yourself, and if you see Sara, let her know how much you enjoy fruit of her skills.”
Indiana City reports three new brews are currently up: Double Tribute Double Pale Ale is a bigger take on their year-round Tribute Pale Ale, “single-hopped with the mighty Eureka hop for huge dank hop aroma and aggressive bitterness that’s perfectly balanced out by its higher ABV and smooth malt sweetness.” Slow Gold is a golden wheat ale brewed with orange peels and dry hopped during fermentation for a fresh hoppy aroma. It’s crisp and clean with plenty of character to please the senses. Irish Hill Irish Red Ale honors the rich Irish heritage of the neighborhood. “Irish Hill was home to the hard working, blue-collar Irish immigrants who quite literally built Indianapolis,” reminds founder/brewer Ray Kamstra. “Irish Hill Ale is a traditional Irish Red with sweet malt flavor and subtle hop bitterness.” Sláinte! Son of War is a fresh citrusy golden ale, crafted with Belgian ale yeast and heavily dry-hopped with American hops. It’s a smooth beer that’s light on the palate with big tropical fruit hop aroma.
Chilly Water announced three new beers on tap: Blazin' Fiddles Scottish Ale, Chilly Water Lager and a new saison. The return of One Hop Wonder IPA will take place on St. Patrick's Day. March starts ThursdayTrivia nights with two times each, starting at 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. “Grab some smart friends and bring a team for neighborhood bragging rights,” advises founder Skip DuVall. “Lastly, and sadly,” adds DuVall, “you may see a slight price increase at Chilly Water due to the increase in hop costs. It's really unfortunate how hop growers and hop suppliers continue to raise their prices...especially for the small breweries. As many of you know, craft beer is booming and the demand for hops is incredible, especially IPA hops.
On tap at Bier Brewery taproom are Special "K" Kolsch, Belgian Pale and Sabbath with Weizengoot & PDG in cans.
Four Fathers Brewing, in Valparaiso, anticipated the change of weather with a new release of two stouts — Perfect Union American Stout and Heavy Hitter Belgian.
Half Moon’s Pekko BooIPA, a Rye IPA, has a new variety of hops called Pekko, named after the Finnish god of field and crops. “Its complex and clean characteristics of floral, citrus, and mint lend itself to the slightly spicy nature of the rye malt used in this unique IPA,” reports brewmaster John Templet.
Mad Anthony reports Six to Midnight Session IPA is rolling out statewide starting March 9 on draft and in cans. “Six to Midnight is a deliciously approachable hoppy beer with a lighter body and lower alcohol content than your standard IPA, making this the one to enjoy all day long. Featuring the coveted Citra hop, this ale has a hoppy kick that will keep you coming back. Ditch the bland and crack open a beer that goes as hard as you do,” promises Stuckey.