We here at Boulevard Brewing Company have long had a congenial relationship with our neighbors over at The Roasterie—a specialty coffee-roasting company. Early morning pleas for a quad-Americano are repaid with the invitation of flowing beer taps come the afternoon. Uppers for downers—what’s not to like? Why it has taken us this long to blend two Kansas City staples into one bottle is beyond us, but we think the resulting Coffee Ale —hitting shelves and taps beginning this week—has been worth the wait.
Not long ago, a group of Boulevardians sat down with The Roasterie’s Bean Hunter (what a title), Paul Massard, and envisioned a different spin on coffee beer. There was a lot to consider. What kind of base beer should we use? What coffee variety? Should we use whole beans or grounds? How do we incorporate coffee into the beer? Will it look enough like coffee that I can drink it from a mug at work?
Blind tasting ultimately favored The Roasterie’s Ethiopian Sidamo varietal, with its wine-like aroma and clean finish. Freshly roasted beans were added to a base beer—made up of rye, pale and caramel malt, subtly brightened with Perle and Styrian Golding hops—just after fermentation so as to contribute as much coffee aroma as possible. When finished, we found ourselves with an amber-hued, full-bodied beer with aromas of (you guessed it) roasted coffee and citrus, complimented by prominent caramel flavor and a sweet, slightly bitter finish.
And while you’d be just fine pairing this beer with smoked brisket or aged gouda, Coffee Ale inherently screams out for breakfast—think donuts—or dessert—think flourless chocolate cake. Just don’t expect much of a pick-me-up, according to Elizabeth Belden of Boulevard’s Quality Assurance Team. “You would need to drink four 750ml bottles of this beer in order to get the caffeine equivalent of 12 ounces of drip coffee,” Belden says. “And we’re talking about a 9.3% ABV beer here. You really shouldn’t drink four bottles of this all in one sitting anyway.”