We first conceived of a lightly hopped pale ale as the base for our coffee beer because of the success of Georgetown Brewing’s Gusto Crema Coffee Ale, which won a gold medal at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival.
Previously, I had always associated coffee beers with dark beer styles like stout and porter. In fact, I have made quite a few of those over the years. But tasting a pale beer with a full on coffee aroma and flavor was an eye-opening experience for me — like that first cup of morning coffee. It was unexpected, and it was delicious. It re-affirmed my belief that in the crowded craft beer market that Washington state has become with nearly 400 craft breweries producing beer, one needs to re-think traditional beer styles and experiment with unconventional methods to set oneself apart.
Dark coffee beer was out, and pale was in.
We chose a blend called Monka coffee from Chef John Howie’s favorite local coffee purveyor, Victors Celtic Coffee Co, in Redmond, WA.
The light roast of the bean blend in Monka makes for a very pleasant, slightly acidic, bright and fresh flavor. Victor’s Celtic Coffee Company describes it thus: Monka – The roasters favorite. Buttery and nutty flavors permeate with rich spicy tones to create a superb balance.
To accentuate the bright spicy coffee aspect of this ale we chose to go with fruit forward hops, Mandarina Bavaria, and Citra. These hops provide aromas of tangerine and citrus which heighten the perception of acidity in the beer. To round out the body of the beer we added lactose (milk sugar) to the kettle during the boil. Lactose is not digestible by brewers yeast, so those sugar molecules stay behind in the beer and increase the mouth-feel.
When we first released Monka Coffee Ale in December 2016, we dispensed the beer through a regular CO2 tap. However, last year we dispensed our Monka Coffee Ale through a nitrogen tap (think Guinness Stout).
We found that the extra creaminess of the nitrogen dispense actually hampered the ability of the aroma of the beer to shine through (part of that experimenting with unconventional methods). So this year, we are going back to dispensing the beer from a CO2 tap.
Our Monka Coffee Ale will release on Tuesday, May 1st at Beardslee Public House and be featured throughout the month of May.
And for every pint of Monka Coffee Ale we sell, we will donate $ 1 to USO Northwest as part of our celebration of May, which is Military Appreciation Month. As a non-government funded agency, sponsorships are critical to the success of USO Northwest as they work to provide a variety of rehabilitation and support services to military service members and their families.
We hope you will get a chance to stop by Beardslee during May and raise a pint of Monka Coffee Ale to our men and women in the Military!