Reviewed: AleSmith Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout
Product description: Our Vietnamese Speedway Stout is a highly sought-after variation of our Imperial Stout, born out of the 2011 Night of a Million Zillion Speedways event, which has now evolved into our popular Speedway Grand Prix. This beer features the intermingling of four traditional coffee styles – Arabica, Robusta, Excelsa, and Catimor. The coffee blend is then roasted using cocoa, and other natural flavors, resulting in a full-bodied stout with a rich, chocolately smoothness.
Alternate description found: Since 2012 we have been adding this blend of four Vietnamese coffees, known in Vietnam as cà phê sa đá, to our popular imperial stout. The coffee beans were slowly roasted at low temperatures and then brewed by AleSmith with a traditional phin-style filter that gently percolates water through the ground coffee. The result is an intensely aromatic and bold tasting coffee that complements the notes of chocolate and roast in this massive stout.
AleSmith Brewing Company – AleSmith Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout – 16oz can served in snifter/tulip hybrid glass – 12% ABV
This highly adored version of AleSmith’s classic Speedway Stout is for sale in cans for the first time this weekend – available for pick up at AleSmith’s tasting room on Saturday. (Previously this was released in 750mL bottles.) This beer takes the regular 16oz matte black Speedway Stout can and has a little triangle sticker added in the center to indicate this is the Vietnamese coffee version.
Vietnamese Speedway debuted in 2011 at the Million Zillion Speedways event at O’Briens Pub in San Diego. I attended this event in 2012, which required you to bring your own muffin tray to the event to hold all of the plastic cups filled with Speedway variants. Fast-forward to today, and that small, intimate event is now a weekend-long celebration at AleSmith’s massive new facility with fancy tasting glasses, matching glass carriers, and numbered booths to get four variants at a time in an orderly fashion. It’s come a long way logistics-wise, but few of the more recent Speedway treatments have won the hearts of beer enthusiasts like the Vietnamese coffee version.
Sampled from a 16oz can packaged on 4/25/18, Vietnamese Speedway is clear dark brown coming out of the can but ink black once in the glass. Enormous dark brown foam rises up and almost spills over the edge of the glass. There’s incredible head retention, and as the foam settles down, bubble bath like swathes of foam stick all over the edges of the glass.
The aroma begins with intense blueberry, blackberry, and oily dark roast coffee beans. Let it warm up, and I get some smokiness and more sweet blueberry as it gravitates closer to blueberry muffin plus chocolate covered strawberry. It’s a sweeter nose than regular Speedway with less in-your-face coffee.
Flavor-wise, it follows the same logic. Sharp, intense roast is ditched in favor of softer vanilla and oily, blueberry doughnut. That world-class mouthfeel from regular Speedway is still there giving you extra full-bodied density like motor oil. After a few sips, outrageous coffee takes center stage with dark berries, smoke, vanilla, sugar, and oil all dancing around the palate. Acidity, one of the biggest components of coffee and coffee beers, is muted here as sugar and oil dominate. The vanilla and dialed-up sugar are possibly from additions beyond the coffee to create something similar to Vietnamese iced coffee (cà phê đá), which contains a generous helping of sweetened condensed milk. The base beer is wicked intense to boot with bitterness pushing a 9 out 10 in overall intensity. This produces a backbone that is able to handle the added sugar.
I’m no coffee expert, but the Vietnamese phin filter is a stainless coffee filter, which should help in allowing more oil to percolate into the cup rather than being absorbed by a traditional paper filter. This beer is exceptionally oily and allows the coffee flavor to run around unrestrained possibly thanks to this process. Overall, Vietnamese Speedway is substantially different from regular Speedway with bolstered sweetness and an oilier, smoother coffee presentation.
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