A hot trend in restaurant dining right now is “Farm to Table” — the local sourcing of ingredients that are fresh and go right from the field, to the kitchen to the plate. Having locally sourced food helps everyone in the local community, as it benefits the local economy in so many ways.
Knowing what we do about the American craft beer movement, it’s only natural that the concept of local sourcing is making its way into breweries all over this land, especially in the Stout and Porter world. Local coffee roasters and brewers are joining forces to collaborate on some amazing coffee beers. It’s the “Bean to Brew” trend.
Think about it. The local Coffee shop, the neighborhood bottle shop–both provide respite from the real world and foster a sense of community. They are gathering spots where friends and acquaintances can get together over a cup of joe or a glass of beer. Both primarily cater to a local constituency, and it’s rather fitting and natural that these two institutions find a way to complement each other.
If you scan the aisles in your local craft beer bottle shop, I’m sure you will find that a decent number of them list coffee as a primary ingredient. If you look closer to find the coffee source, what you will discover is that many breweries are indeed partnering with local coffee roasters to brew hyper-local beers that tempt the senses of both smell and taste. My favorite local bottle shops take the partnership a step further by selling beans and cold brew of various local coffee roasters, and I suspect similar relationships are happening in your community, as well.
Brewery-roaster collaborations are happening all over, but one place I found where the model is really taking root is in the great state of Ohio. I spoke to John Haggerty, brewmaster of Dayton, Ohio based Warped Wing Brewing, who shared with me numerous examples where Warped Wing is collaborating with not just roasters but numerous kinds of local food, beverage and other manufacturers.
Warped Wing has done three beers with local chocolatier, Esther Price, a beer with a local mustard company, Wober’s, and a beer with Huffy Bicycles, which is headquartered near Dayton. They also lent their Ermal’s Cream Ale for inspiration in the creation of Ermal’s Beard Oil made with Whiskermen Grooming Company, and Warped Wing will even do a collaboration with the Dayton Symphony Orchestra in 2018. Now that’s local involvement!
Most recently, Warped Wing has teamed up with local coffee roaster, Press, for a first-time canning of Warped Wing’s popular Belgian Style Black Tripel, Pirogue. Pirogue uses Press’ Wood Burl Coffee to compliment its hints of baker’s chocolate, brown sugar, stone fruit and fig.
Warped Wing’s tagline of “Share a Pint, Make a Friend” is indicative of their level of community involvement.
Haggerty said, “I strongly believe that local sourcing and involvement is good for the community, good for Warped Wing, and good for the local economy.” He added, “Warped Wing’s hardcore customers are Daytonians, and local partnerships and cross-marketing opportunities help keep our tasting room full.”
As you venture through Ohio’s craft beer scene what you find is that Warped Wing isn’t alone in their local sourcing vision. Peter Brown, owner of Six Shooter Coffee in Cleveland, knows that well.
Six Shooter collaborates with two local breweries (The Cleveland Brewery and Masthead Brewing Company), and local sourcing has come to play a large role in its business model. The Cleveland roaster’s market is local and the cross marketing with local bakers, chefs, and brewers brings more people into to Six Shooter.
Peter told me, “you know where your dollar is going. It helps an individual you know. More often than not these people are grinding it out just like you. They aren’t some wealthy unknown who has different interests.”
Six Shooter’s collaboration with The Cleveland Brewery uses a cold brew with Brazil Santos coffee to produce a white stout called Buzz Beer, and their Masthead collaboration is a more traditional coffee stout, called Masthead Coffee Stout, using coarsely ground Ethiopian coffee. These partnerships help extend the Six Shooter Coffee, Cleveland Brewing and Masthead Brewing brands beyond their traditional markets, and they demonstrate each brand’s commitment to the local economy.
Another local Dayton, Ohio roaster, Twisted River Coffee, provides Twisted Caramel Coffee to Star City Brewing Company in Miamisburg for their top selling Twisted Mill Stout. The relationship with Star City is such that Star City sells ground Twisted River coffee by the pound at their taproom.
Over the years, Dan Clayton of Twisted River has seen a shift in consumer sentiment and said, “people want to buy from people in their community. They want that connection and feel that they are a part of something happening in their own town. Collaborations like the one I have with Star City just expands on this. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
One of the best examples I found of the local craft-beer-coffee-roaster collaboration is the partnership between Braxton Brewing and Carabello Coffee. Braxton, located in Covington, Kentucky just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, opens its taproom at 8:00 a.m. to allow the community to use their facilities. Startups, remote workers, or anyone looking for a place to work can enjoy free gigabit Wi-Fi access and have a cup or three of Starter, their custom coffee created in collaboration with Carabello, also in Covington. They serve the coffee the traditional way, as a cold brew, and cold brew on Nitro.
This might have you thinking of Braxton’s facility as the taproom of the future, an entrepreneurial start up facility and coffee shop during the business day, which transforms into a more traditional brewery taproom in the afternoon and evening. That’s local sourcing and local community involvement at its finest.
Jonathan Gandolf of Braxton Brewing said, “The Braxton-Caballero partnership doesn’t just benefit the community here in Covington. The expertise and creativity we each bring to the partnership make us better, as well. And our customers are the winners.”
It’s easy to find other examples in every corner of this country: Terrapin and Jittery Joes in Athens, Georgia, Big Boss Brewing and Larry’s Coffee in Raleigh, North Carolina, Burial Brewing and Counter Culture Coffee in Asheville, Goose Island and Intelligentsia in Chicago to name only a few. Modern Times and Dark Horse Brewing each take it one step further and have their own coffee roasteries which complement their brewery businesses.
Probably one of the more ambitious efforts in the Bean to Brew trend comes from Epic Brewing and their Son of a Baptist coffee stout, where they have partnered with several regional coffee roasters to brew and release different local versions of this coffee stout. Son of a Baptist is based off Epic’s popular barrel aged coffee stout Big Bad Baptist.
Matthew Allred of Epic Brewing told me “we regularly feature different coffee roasters and coffees during the season but because of how robust Big Bad Baptist is we are also limited to the type of coffee and roast profile we can use.” Allred continues, “the idea behind Son of a Baptist is to brew a non-barrel aged imperial stout that has the capacity to highlight all of the unique coffee offerings we been able to taste but wouldn’t make sense in Big Bad Baptist. Basically we designed the beer from the ground up to highlight coffee just like an IPA highlights hops.”
According to Allred, Epic believes that local sourcing builds strong, healthy communities and it’s a fantastic way to make unique, high quality, products. With Son of a Baptist they’ve expanded on the idea and found a fantastic way to stay true to a local ethos on a national scale.
So, what makes the coffee/craft beer combination work so well? The earthy, woody, berry flavors of coffee integrate smoothly with the heavy malts that are used in making Porters and Stouts, which end up presenting the notes as a stand-out feature in the beverage. However, brewers are going beyond Porters and Stouts and are finding more creative ways to match the coffee flavors with other beer styles.
Peter Brown of Six Shooter Coffee told me, “brewers and coffee roasters are both artisans in that everyone starts with similar raw products and they all come out with different finished products. There is so much science and math, but there is a certain art to it as well.”
A great example of the trend extending beyond the traditional coffee brews is again, Warped Wing’s Pirogue, which is a Black Belgian Tripel. They are also considering a more traditional Belgian Tripel for a coffee infusion and even a Saison with Cascara, which is the husk of the coffee cherry that exhibits a sweet, fruity flavor.
Buzz Beer from The Cleveland Brewery is a white stout. Braxton Brewing’s Dead Blow is a very popular tropical stout made with dates and brewed with their Starter coffee. Dark Charge is Braxton’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, and one of their variants uses Starter.
What usually sets apart coffee beers, no matter the style, is the coffee scent. I’ve always thought that the first impression of a beer is made even before the first sip. The aroma usually provides a preview of what’s to come and that, along with the first sip and swallow usually give craft beer drinkers reason to smile.
Another great flavoring trend is that of aging coffee beans in bourbon barrels, giving beans the slightest hint of whatever alcohol was in the barrel. Braxton Brewing has delved into this technique along with Caballero by aging coffee beans in both Bourbon Barrels and Tequila Barrels. On a more national scale, Epic Brewing’s Double Barrel Aged Big Bad Baptist also uses Bourbon Barrel aged coffee.
These partnerships tell me that the entrepreneurial spirit in the craft beer industry is alive and well. The concept of Bean to Brew local sourcing is here to stay, not only because it’s good business, but because it’s the right thing to do.
As Matthew Allred from Epic Brewing told me, “As brewers of craft beer, attention to detail is crucial and I’m glad to see coffee is getting its day in the beer world. There are so many fantastic small artisan roasters that share the same attention to detail as we do and it’s been a lot fun meeting and talking with them and sharing a common passion.”
When you see a coffee roaster, a chocolatier, or any retailer partnering with a brewery on a beer or any other food item, please make sure to patronize both the brewery and their partner. When you do, you know your money will stay local. They thank you for your patronage and you benefit from their creativity. If it’s a craft beer and coffee collaboration, enjoy the aroma, the sip, and the swallow.