As a fan of the English Premier League Football while living in New York, I often find myself in a predicament of thirst when pulling myself out of bed at 8 a.m. on a Saturday to watch a Liverpool game. My first instinct is to go to coffee — to help wake up. The second is that I want a hearty pint of you know what. Hey, it’s afternoon in England! Thankfully there’s a beer for that — actually, there’s quite a few. Although coffee flavor in beer is nothing new, thanks to the natural taste of roasted dark malts, using actual coffee as an ingredient is a booming trend among brewers and has already become a staple for some of the world’s best brews.
Brewing with premium coffee can be expensive, so while some tend to be special releases, there are several good ones that are year-round and easier to find. Getting the flavors right is also tricky, as coffee can easily overwhelm the palate, so while a coffee IPA might sound like an interesting experiment, it’s only been pulled off a few times successfully — Stone’s limited-edition Dayman Coffee IPA, though no longer around, was a real winner (stouts and porters are a more natural fit). If you want intense coffee flavor, we recommend making sure your coffee beer is fresh, as coffee flavor is at its peak when young. Check out 10 of our favorites and start your morning with brews 'n brews.
1. Goose Island Beer Company: Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout
A truly unforgettable beer in a class of its own, Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout (BCBCS) is a force to be reckoned both for its huge 14% ABV and its massive flavors. Made with Intelligentsia coffee and aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels for eight months, expect to find complex flavors of coffee, bourbon, oak, chocolate and vanilla. The coffee really mellows out the intensity of the bourbony base beer. It’s a very limited release in bottles, but continues to pop up on draft, so seek it out!
2. AleSmith Brewing Company: Speedway Stout
AleSmith has a reputation for standout interpretations of traditional styles, but when it comes to their Speedway Stout they really get creative, offering yearly interpretations ranging from fruits to luxurious coffee variations. While these special editions may be brewery-only releases, the regular Speedway Stout is a winner and available year-round. Prepare for big coffee flavor, thanks to Ryan Bros. Coffee, followed by rich vanilla and dark chocolate. The 12% ABV is hidden but warming, so this treat of a beer would be a good one to pick up for a cool night.
3. Evil Twin Brewing: Imperial Biscotti Break
Evil Twin has a knack for releasing beer once and not releasing it again; luckily this isn’t the case here. This beer will appeal right away to any coffee lover but there are many more flavors to explore. As the name states, you should pick up flavors similar to biscotti, like anise, licorice, almonds and sweet chocolate. It’s a big beer at 11.5% ABV but it’s a perfect sipper after a big meal.
4. Mikkeller: Beer Geek Brunch Weasel
While some coffee beers highlight local roasteries, Mikkeller went the extra mile getting special coffee from Vietnam. This isn't any regular coffee either. Brunch Weasel uses ground coffee berries ingested by a civet, a type of ferret. The bean matures in its stomach and gets pooped out for the ripest coffee you might just ever try. Civet coffee, or Kopi Luwak, is also one of the most expensive in the world, only slightly behind coffee that’s been pooped out by elephants (duh!). Robust coffee and espresso flavor with a big dark chocolate finish. Make all the jokes you want — it sounds gross, but it tastes damn near perfect.
5. Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel: Péché Mortel
Péché Mortel is an absolute stunner of a coffee stout from one of Canada’s best breweries. Huge roasted malt and coffee flavor are followed by bittersweet chocolate, vanilla, dark fruit and some hops. This is a big stout, clocking in at 9.5% and though the coffee will fade a bit, the alcohol will mellow as well, bringing out more complex flavors. This beer only comes in single 12-ounce bottles, so we recommend grabbing at least two — one to drink and one to keep.
6. Founders Brewing Company: Breakfast Stout
The brewers at West Michigan–based Founders love coffee so much they brewed two stouts with coffee, this one and the infamous Kentucky Breakfast Stout. While obtaining KBS might prove to be a wild goose chase (or a wild beer trade), their excellent Breakfast Stout is more attainable. Deep milk chocolate, tons of coffee and an intense, rich body makes this one of the best beers on the planet.
7. Surly Brewing Company: Coffee Bender
The coffee edition of Surly’s Bender is a canned coffee treat, often looked at as the iced coffee of beer in the best way possible. Coffee Bender hits you immediately with huge fresh black coffee aroma and taste. Amazingly light at just 5.1%, it’s a welcome change from the typical stout base of coffee beers.
8. Pipeworks Brewing Company: Coffee Break Abduction
Pipeworks may be one of the newest breweries on this list, but it’s also one of the best. Roasty malt, espresso, dark chocolate, a hint of licorice and hops balance out perfectly. One of the best things about Pipeworks is their commitment to quality — their website lists the bottling date for each batch. A fresh batch was released last month, so we would highly recommend tracking it down, like right now!
9. Ballast Point Brewing Company: Victory at Sea
Ballast Point gets a ton of attention for their IPAs but this standout Imperial Porter, clocking in at 10%, blows its competition out of the water. Cold-brewed coffee from San Diego’s Caffe Calabria makes this quite a coffee bomb, but vanilla sweetens things out. There's big roasted malt character and chocolaty goodness along for the ride, too. It's a great sweet alternative to the usual bitterness of some coffee beers.
10. Cigar City Brewing: Cubano-Style Espresso Brown Ale
Cigar City does an outstanding job of using Florida culture to inspire their beer. This brown ale takes their popular Maduro and ages it on whole beans. It’s an homage to Cuban espresso, a popular drink in Tampa, where there are big Italian and Cuban communities. Espresso is the star of the show here along with flavors of vanilla, chocolate, nuts and roasted malt. At 5.5%, it’s right next to Surly’s Coffee Bender as a drinkable example of the style that’ll make you want more than one.
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