There is no doubt that there is a strong correlation between beer and coffee drinkers. But why? Perhaps it may be our unnatural desire for bitterness. Our affinity for bitter flavors is actually one of the (many) things that separates humans from other animals. The combination of these two bitter agents may live in harmony on our palates; melding together into deeper dimensions that tickle our taste receptors — or, as Popular Science would have it, perhaps we’re just antisocial psychopaths?
Whichever the case may be, we love our coffee beers here at The Full Pint and we have rounded up some of our absolute favorites for you (in no particular order):
Tried and True
Surly Brewing – Coffee Bender: Minnesota gem and destination brewery Surly Brewing uses locally roasted Guatemalan coffee and adds it to their already luxurious Bender oatmeal brown ale. The result is well-balanced with the oats adding to a creamy mouthfeel. Bonus points for being available in cans.
Santa Fe Brewing – Java Stout: Don’t judge a beer by it’s bottle, or in this case, can. This Santa Fe Brewing staple may not look like much in it’s incredibly simple can design, but it’s a whopper at 8% abv. This is a more chocolate-forward offering featuring New Guinea and East Timor beans roasted locally by O’hori’s Coffee.
Smog City Brewing – Coffee Porter: This Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal winner from Torrance-based Smog City is one of our local favorites. It is a deeply robust offering with a bit of a sharper bite to compliment its roasted malt flavors. Drinkable decadence at 6% abv featuring fair trade beans from Groundworks Coffee.
AleSmith Brewing – Speedway Stout: Often regarded as the king of coffee beers, this San Diego early adopter has built a fanatical following behind the many luxury variants of one of their flagship brews. The year-round original uses Ryan Bros. coffee from San Diego to impart notes of dark fruit and caramel into their rich bitter chocolate base. The original is already a luxury at 12% but various barrel-aged renditions and a lineup of high-end world-class coffees also pop-up to draw big lines.
Pipeworks Brewing – Coffee Break Abduction: We love the whole Abduction series from Chicago’s Pipeworks Brewing, but the addition of vanilla and Dark Matter coffee to this hefty imperial stout makes us swoon every time. The end result is rich with notes of dark fruit, light anise, and a touch of smoke in the finish.
Good People Brewing – Coffee Oatmeal Stout: When a friend brought this Birmingham brew back to me I was immediately charmed by their can design which promptly took a back seat after trying it’s totally crushable contents. This super-drinkable 5.7% oatmeal stout has a light-yet-velvety body and just enough roasty characteristics to make you think you’re sipping on your morning cold brew.
Half Acre Beer Co. – Big Hugs: I look forward to this release every year. No hands down one of my favorite coffee beers, Big Hugs from Chicago’s Half Acre teams up with Dark Matter Coffee for this 10% Russian Imperial Stout that differs slightly year-to-year but always brings consistent happiness to your taste buds.
Out of the ordinary
Prairie Artisan Ales – Bomb!: If you’ve gotten this far down the list, you’ve probably noticed a trend: imperial stout + coffee. But what sets this Oklahoma brewery apart is the addition of cacao nibs, vanilla bean, and…wait for it…ancho chile! Chase Healy’s deft hand makes a truly unique flavor profile here with just a touch of heat to elevate the chocolate notes. Several variants have surfaced but we always come back to this one.
Sixpoint Brewery – C.R.E.A.M: A light at the end of the dark roasty tunnel comes to us from Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewery. Their take on a coffee beer is one of the most unique offerings; a cream ale dosed with coffee. Lighter than you’d expect for a 7.2% brew with a nice mouthfeel and lower bitterness than other coffee beers.
Noble Ale Works – Naughty Sauce: I’m breaking a rule here. I try to only include beers that are available in bottles & cans so that you, dear readers, can actually get your hands on these if you are not in the general path of distribution. However, we can’t round up coffee beers we love without giving props to one of the most innovative brews around. Naughty Sauce from Noble Ale Works is a Golden. Nitro. Milk Stout. With Coffee…and you can read Danny gush about it here.
The Big Wood
Avery Brewing – Tweak: Dangerously drinkable at 17.5%, Colorado staple Avery Brewing unleashes a monstrous brew with Tweak, a coffee stout aged in Bourbon barrels with great caramel notes and deep wood.
Beachwood Brewing – System of a Stout: This beer made so many waves when it first released in 2012 but it has become one of those special Beachwood releases we all look forward to time and again. On paper, some may think this is all kitsch — ode to popular band with Armenian frontman, Armenian spices, Armenian coffee beans, and even oak chips soaked in Armenian Brandy… we get it: Armenia. But the truth is, this is one complex stunner and it rightfully won GABF medals for it.
Firestone Walker Brewing – Parabajava: What happens when you take your already popular Parabola and add Intelligentsia coffee to it? Beer geeks lose their shit. That’s what. The formerly draught-only specialty finally saw a limited bottle release in 2015 — almost as a Black Friday answer to the n00bs waiting in line for BCBS and the crowd went wild. Will it return? Keep your eyes peeled on FW’s social in the coming months.
Modern Times Beer – Monster’s Park Aged in Bourbon Barrels with Coffee: When Modern Times used the word “cantankerous” as a descriptor on the original Monster’s Park bottle, we knew the Bourbon Barrel-aged version would be a beast. This is a standout offering from them that only gets better with a little age. The assertive bitterness mellows to showcase some very lovely notes of blueberry, dark cherry, and tobacco which is why this is our choice above their year-round Black House. Did we mention that they own their own roastery? New school San Diego is not messing around.
New Holland Brewing Co. – Dragon’s Milk: I still want to believe that this is a sleeper hit. New Holland’s been consistent in making magic with their Dragon’s Milk aged in Bourbon barrels for many years now but the buzz seems to only live with those who know New Holland. This is a beautifully robust stout that is not too extreme and has just the right amount of oak lingering in the background.
Have a coffee beer you love that we’ve missed? Tell us about it in the comments!