Reviewed: Perennial Coffee Abraxas 2018
Product description: [Modified from Perennial’s website] 2018 Coffee Abraxas was made with Colombia Cauca coffee beans that were selected, roasted, and ground by Sump Coffee. We cold brewed the coffee and produced a blend that marries perfectly with the stout. It packs plenty of aroma up front and has a smooth, luxurious finish. As with all coffee beers, it is best enjoyed fresh. [From the bottle] Ale with ancho chili peppers, cacao nibs, and cinnamon sticks with coffee beans. 11.5% ABV
Perennial Artisan Ales – Perennial Coffee Abraxas 2018 – 750mL served in stemless snifter – 11.5% ABV
Consider this a companion review to Perennial’s 2018 version of Abraxas with vanilla beans. This Abraxas variant includes locally roasted coffee from Sump roasters with this year’s version incorporating Colombia Cauca coffee. Since the Abraxas variants are difficult to tell apart from each other by label artwork, just look at the very bottom center wording for “with coffee beans” for identification. Also unique to this version is a “warning” offset to the right of the observe label that reads, “Coffee is delicate. Please store cold and enjoy within 60 days for ideal flavor and aroma.” This was bottled in October 2018 (day not specified) and I’m sampling this in December, so I’m probably right on the edge of Perennial’s freshness window.
Like BA 17, Maman, and regular Abraxas; Coffee Abraxas is a menacing used motor oil black that allows for zero light penetration even when pouring it out of the bottle. Mocha-colored foam erupts nearly out of the glass and then sticks around for several minutes. It’s higher-carbonated than most imperial stouts I’ve encountered with significantly better head retention.
The aroma for the normal Abraxas, Vanilla Abraxas, and Coffee Abraxas are quite different from each other. I mentioned in the companion review that normal Abraxas had more of a black licorice aroma which didn’t carry over the Vanilla. The Vanilla also didn’t really pop with ancho chilis nor vanilla surprisingly. This coffee version, though, does really bring out the ancho chili which adds a savory, spicy raisin character. Intense cinnamon, licorice, and blackstrap molasses constitute the remainder of the nose. There’s some earthiness and just touches of green jalapeño (especially at room temperature) from the coffee addition. But nothing screams coffee in the nose. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Most coffee beers I’ve tried have a poorly integrated aroma and flavor of Folger’s coffee grounds that overtake the beer completely. As with some concoctions I’ve had from local coffee roaster slash brewery Modern Times, some of their best coffee beers are fully integrated where you get a playful sometimes fruity aroma, oilier palate, and boosted bitterness. It’s not necessarily a coffee beer as much as it is just good beer.
The same thing has happened here with Coffee Abraxas. Hardly anywhere in the flavor is the coffee addition obvious. Keep it a total secret for some drinkers and they may not be able to pick it out! Instead, you get a really nice overall experience. Dark chocolate flavors are sharper, the beer picks up some earthiness that wasn’t there before, and bitterness isn’t too stinging thankfully hovering around a 7 or 8/10. Like the other two versions I’ve tried, overall heat level from the ancho chilis is very low at a 2/10. Even though I was expecting way higher bitterness from this addition, Coffee Abraxas is still quite a sweet beer. (It is a milk stout after all.) Muscovado sugar, fudge, and s’mores flavors dominate as the beer warms up. Just like with the Vanilla Bean Abraxas, this beer really shines in the mouthfeel. It’s nicely silky and has a coating effect like melted chocolate truffle thanks in part to a lactose sugar addition. This was the missing ingredient in Perennial’s other mega imperial stouts, which came across as far too roasty and unbalanced.
In terms of Mexican hot chocolate stouts, Abraxas is nuanced compared to others like Westbrook’s Mexican Cake or Stone’s Xocoveza. Those two are spicier and aggressive on the adjuncts. Abraxas, by comparison, is well-mannered and may be more enjoyable to your casual imperial stout lover. With this particular variant, the Sump coffee addition is not transformative. This is not even a coffee-centric beer in my opinion. Instead, this version is better refined with an even softer mouthfeel, rounded out bitterness, and more robust flavors from various angles. Playful flavors come at you from so many directions it’s difficult to pinpoint one and say, wow, huge coffee on this beer! I don’t think that’s the point of using these high-end coffees. It’s probably my favorite of the three with the vanilla bean version at a close second.
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