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Coffee-Lovers, Meet Stout-Season

Temps are dropping and leaves are falling and in my little beer-infused world, it can only mean one thing: STOUT SEASON! Truly, the most glorious time of the year. (and tastiest!) I also happen to love me a sturdy cup o’ Joe with a bit of cream and sugar to round it out. Combining the two? Even better. Coffee stouts are some of the tastiest dark beers that one can experience, typically with loads of depth and delightful flavors. If you are a fan of light beers (or perhaps not a beer-drinker at all), but you love a cup of coffee during the morning or throughout the day, you really ought to sample a coffee-stout; my money is on your complete and utter enjoyment!

The Egerton Manuscript, written in 1677 by Francis Henry Egerton, 8th Earl of Bridgewater, was the first written account using the word “stout” as more of an adjective and a synonym to describe “strong” beer. Stouts generally have a brown to black coloration, have a thicker, full body, and tend to be rich. They have a bit of a bitterness about them, which comes both from the hops and un-malted roasted barley. Popular hops used for stouts include Cascade, Fuggle, Centennial, and East Kent Goldings, but you will never really taste hops in a stout, because they are really only utilized as a bittering agent during the boil. A base stout, on its own without any additions, will have aromas of ground coffee, dark fruits (plum/prune/black currants/other dark-skinned fruits), wood and earth, while the flavors consist of roasted malt, chocolate, coffee, toast/grains/oatmeal, caramel, nuttiness and sometimes even char. The best temperature to drink a stout is right around 50°F, so that the flavors really ripen in complexity and character – therefore, take that beer out of the fridge and let it sit for a bit before drinking. 

There are several ways that brewers incorporate coffee into their stouts. They may combine coffee grounds or whole roasted beans with their grains and let them steep together during the mash or in fermentation tanks, or they may blend actual cold-brewed coffee directly into their beer after fermentation. The resulting beer, no matter which way it was created, will have a distinct coffee aroma and notes. Also, while there is a small amount of caffeine present in the beer, there is never going to be enough caffeine to keep you awake.

Fun Fact: In some cases, a “coffee” stout will not actually contain coffee at all! This is because some brewers utilize specific types of roasted grains that will mimic the same complexities, notes, and flavors of brewed coffee. 

Where can you get your paws on a coffee stout around these parts? Well, you’re in luck, because coffee stouts are pretty popular these days. 

Cup of Coffee in The Bigtime by Talking Cursive Brewing Company in collaboration with Salt City Coffee (Syracuse, NY) 4.5% ABV, 40 IBU. This true coffee stout is brewed with small batch Honduran coffee beans and cold brew from Salt City Coffee, and it’s Bigtime, alright! It has big roasty coffee notes, loads of dark chocolate flavors (think 85% Cocoa Lindt Excellence dark chocolate bar), and it is definitely on the bitter side – I really dig this because it is NOT sweet! For you folks that take your coffee black, or really love dark chocolate with a high cocoa content and low sugar, this one is for you. Currently on tap at Talking Cursive!

Nitro Recess Stout by Middle Ages Brewing in collaboration with Recess Coffee (Syracuse, NY) 6% ABV. Another locally produced true coffee stout brewed in conjunction with a local coffee shop! This is a stout brewed with specialty malts, oatmeal, and freshly roasted and ground coffee that is cold steeped into the beer. This draft beer being on nitrogen provides the brew an even smoother mouthfeel. It’s roasty, it’s smooth, it’s light, and it’s got all the coffee flavors. In addition, Fearless is their imperial coffee stout. This stout was first aged in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels for over two years and then infused with freshly roasted Recess coffee. Coming in at a whopping 12.8% ABV, this stout is rich and complex with roasty coffee notes including a little bit of sweetness which comes from the bourbon, all while being boozy with a capital “B.” Excellent choice if you’re looking for something “extra” to go with your coffee! Presently, both choices are available at Middle Ages. 

Morning Timber by Beer Tree Brew (Port Crane, NY) 9% ABV, 30 IBU. Beer Tree calls this coffee stout a ‘breakfast stout’ that is brewed with love, coffee and Willet Hop and Grain wood fire evaporated maple syrup. I found this beer to be chock full of coffee and chocolate notes with a smidge of vanilla thrown in. I personally had difficulty picking up the maple. It was not overtly sweet, and therefore would cater to a variety of palates. It is a solid brew that you’ll have to travel down to the brewery itself to obtain, but Beer Tree is always worth a trip, IMO.

Coffee and beer-lovers, rejoice! The world is your oyster (or coffee mug). Take a trip to Branching Out located in Township 5 in Camillus or peruse the beer aisle at your local Wegmans; there are loads of coffee stouts out there to choose from, and not to be forgotten, several of our local breweries brew their own versions of coffee stouts. Explore away! Cheers! 

References: https://www.thepizzapress.com/beer/beer-101-coffee-stout/

Kristin Merritt
Just your average craft-brew loving gal slinging your monthly pour of beer education and the low-down on all things beer related in the immediate CNY area and beyond. Along the way I hope to give a few recommendations for your grocery list, events to attend, and local hotspots to hit-up for shenanigans with friends, ideas for date night, or at the very least enlighten you with a bit of random knowledge to use towards trivia night or simply give you and your teammates a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! Cheers!