Craft brewers Ballast Point and Coronado Brewing Company recently added more hardware to their awards collections, medaling at the Brussels Beer Challenge for coffee flavored beers Victory at Sea porter and Blue Bridge stout.
Sharing in these brewers’ success is San Diego coffee, specifically Caffé Calabria and Café Moto, which provided coffee for the respective beers. Both beverages beg a refined palate, so perhaps its not surprising a number of craft beer companies have been catching on to the specialty coffee movement, evidenced by a recent spate of coffee stouts and ales made in conjunction with local roasters.
Month-old Fall Brewing Company came out of the gate with a coffee beer on its roster, working with North Park neighbor Dark Horse Coffee. According to Dark Horse owner Daniel Charlson, the 2am Stout incorporates “100 lbs. of coffee and an ungodly amount of vanilla beans.”
Benchmark Brewing paired up with The West Bean for a current take on its Oatmeal Stout, while St. Archer has now issued two releases of its Coffee Brown Ale in collaboration with Bird Rock Coffee Roasters.
Most of these collaborations are driven as much by personal relationships as crossover appeal, and both sides show genuine enthusiasm about capturing unique and nuanced levels of flavor from coffee to beer. Café Moto owner Torrey Lee says they “went through four or five versions” of the Coranado Brewing collaboration before settling on a Moto blend of four different coffee varietals. Like most of the coffee/beer partnerships, Lee says Moto provides the brewer with cold brew coffee, steeping rough ground beans in cold water for long periods for a “concentrated and low acid extraction,” more conducive to suiting a beer recipe.
Eric Magruder, tasting room manager for Mike Hess Brewing says their brewers “really like the way cold brewed coffee smoothly integrates with beer.” He calls the recent Grazias cream ale collaboration between Hess and Mission Beach roaster Swell Café “one of the finest batches that we’ve produced,” and suggests trying the coffee and non-coffee versions of Grazias side by side to get a better insight on how the coffee impacts the overall taste.
Perhaps the most prolific coffee beer collaborator is Carmel Mountain’s Mostra Coffee. The two-year old roaster has yet to set up a retail shop, but has already worked with a number of local beer purveyors, including Karl Strauss and White Labs. Earlier this year Mostra head roaster Mike Arquines met with brewers at Alesmith to fine tune a roast for a special release of its Speedway Stout. He sourced a barrel of highly sought Jamaica Blue Mountain beans for the limited issue stout, which he says sold out within 18 minutes of being made available for online ordering.
More recently, Mostra’s Brazil Oberon cold brew contributed one of many layers of flavor to Xocoveza Mocha Stout — a highly rated homage to Mexican hot chocolate released by Stone Brewing. Mostra distributes its cold brew in select shops and restaurants, including Krisp markets and Tender Greens, though at this point its work in craft beer world has an arguably greater reach. Already, more collaborations are in the works, including a “Latte Stout” with Abnormal Brewing, a new beer company yet to even launch its first release.