First, it was the big barrel aged beers. Then the crazy hop forward, double or even triple (!!) IPAs, but what is the next trend in craft beer? I’ve got an idea of what it might be – and I like everything about it!
Here are 2 things that aren’t a secret: I don’t like hoppy beers, and I love beers that are big on flavor. For years, this has resulted in my gravitating towards heavy, thick, dark beers – IPA trend be damned.
About 2 years there was a ray of hope when I stumbled upon Allagash Brewing Company James Bean at a brewery sponsored rare beer tasting event. A Curieux brewed over coffee beans?? Yes please! It was love at first sip. Roasty, complex, smooth, with some good weight.
A few weeks later on a trip back to Michigan I found Odd Side Ales Bean Flicker, a much lighter and more drinkable twist on the same idea – the Coffee Blonde. Despite it’s lightness, this a new style I can get behind! The problem being that, at the time, it was a bit of a one off. No other coffee blondes could be found, and one can’t rely on one rare release and one that isn’t exported to New York for “every-day” enjoyment.
Recently, however, they have started to crop up on a larger scale. I found 3 at my City Swiggers on my way home from work last night and decided to give them all a try.
I love the bitterness of coffee notes in a stout where there is a heavy maltiness (and maybe even some barrel aging) to balance it out; however, when coffee is combined with an ale, the bitterness can be too upfront and off-putting. That said, there are a few that get it right! I still love James Bean the most, but I think I may have found a solid stand in that’s more readily available.
Go forth and sip light, lovers of malty, flavorful beers!
Odd Side Ales Bean Flicker Blonde: A deliciously drinkable blonde coffee ale. Smooth, rich and roasty with some vanilla and earthiness while still being crisp. (March 2014).
Allagash Brewing Company James Bean: Finally, a light beer I can drink and love!! Light in color but not in flavor, barrel aging rounds out the potential disconnect between the Curieux and the cold press coffee – adds a bit of nice sweetness too. Well balanced and lovely. Really lovely. (March 2014)
Sixpoint Brewery C.R.E.A.M.: When I saw a new Sixpoint, I got excited. When I saw it was a coffee cream ale, I got even more excited. That excitement didn’t pan out. Thin, very light on the coffee notes, and weirdly hoppy with light citrus even which competes with the coffee rather than enhancing it.
Goose Island Brewery Fulton St. Blend Coffee Ale: The man behind the counter had to talk me into this one given my run in with infected Coffee Bourbon County Brand Stout as well as my loss of faith in Goose Island after the AB InBev acquisition. None the less, I decided I’d give it a try. Brewed with the same coffee that went into the ill-fated Coffee BCBS, there is a strong coffee flavor here. Strong, bitter, day-old “starbucks” coffee flavors on first sip that mellow out a bit.
Schlafly Double Bean Blonde: Here’s the sweet spot! Good coffee flavor, but the bitterness is in check. All the roastiness robust flavors of coffee with a malty and delicious blonde ale behind it. Took my first sip out of the bottle and had to pour it into a glass to believe this was actually a Blonde. Yes. Yes. Yes.