**Let me take a brief moment to apologize on the delay for our Hopfest in review article. We are working on something epic with two writers. For now, Erik provides a taste of our day.***
Every now and again, I run across a beer that’s so interesting, so tasty and so different than my normal preference, I become mildly obsessed with it, and spend most of my time trying to track it down. At Brouwer’s Hopfest last weekend, I found just such a beer.
Midnight Sun Brewing Co’s XXX Black Double IPA was my favorite beer of the festival. Before you ask, yes, I had a Wisdom Seeker and a Blind Pig and an Ace of Spades, and all the standouts. I even had a few very limited Firkins and a cask beer or two. Those were all exceptional, don’t get me wrong, but the XXX stood out for a couple good reasons.
Having spent most of the morning in a blissful hop-induced delirium, the surprise of XXX’s sweet, almost stouty malt profile was like taking a sip of lemonade on a hot day. The mouthfeel was almost as creamy as a good porter, but it finished strong with a not-to-dry, but fully developed hop bite.
Again, touting the wisdom of our very own Timperial Stout, balance is king. He taught be that over-emphasizing one flavor can lead to an underwhelming experience. I’m going to state my almost assuredly unpopular opinion that Russian River’s Blind Pig is a one-trick-pony. Sure, it’s an impressive trick, but drinking what is essentially hop extract got old after about 8 ounces.
Midnight Sun, however, has crafted a beer with such depth…such complexity, that one schooner wasn’t nearly enough. Unfortunately for me, I have to wait until January when they begin shipping it down to Washington, where it will be exclusively available in 22oz bottles for only a few months.
Enjoyed on 3/7/2010
Location: Escandido, CA
Beer: Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter
Presentation: 12 oz – Brown Glass Bottle
Style: Flavored Porter
Recommended Serving Temp: 55 degrees
Notes from the bottle:
Food Pairings: Barbeque, smoked meats, chocolate, deserts
Cheese Pairings: Gouda, brie
Beer Advocate: A-
Rate Beer: 98 (3.87)
The Stone Collaboration series is another wonderful chapter in the big old book of recent brewing collaborations. To date, 6 have been brewed in this series, each being a triple collaboration with Stone acting as curator and permanent attendee.
It all began with the first brew being sent to market in late ’08 and has continued on a trend of about 2 releases per year. Each is brewed at Stone Brewing and is brewed once. This is what you missed so far:
#2 – a 9% holiday ale brewed with Ron Jefferies of Jolly Pumpkin and Kjetil Jikiun of Nogne-O. This brew has since been brewed at least one more time at Nogne-O in Norway and packed under the Nogne-O label. We are hopeful that it continues to be produced.
#4 – reviewed here.
The last 2 are already in the works and should be seen on shelves in due time.
There are some serious names being thrown around up there. Stone has created a monster! We love it!
Another really exciting thing about collaboration beers like this is that, in some cases, a result of joint brewing is joint distributorship. This means that we get to taste beers brewed, at least in part, by brewers who do not distribute their product to our market. At this time, in reference to this Stone Series, the collaboration involving Alesmith is the only relevant example of this in the Seattle area (lucky us), but this concept is never the less a valid reason for excitement.
Allow me to get back to the beer at hand. Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter (mouthful) has a really interesting story line. It was brewed at Stone in Southern California collaboratively with Garrett Marrero of Maui Brewing and Ken Schmidt, a homebrewer whose creation is the source of the recipe. Ken brewed a beer, inspired by Maui Brewing’s Coconut Poter, he called Aloha Plenty for the AHA Rally in ’09 and won first place. As part of his prize, the beer would be brewed in the Stone system and put on tap at the Stone Bistro. It was just an added bonus that the brewing ended up being in collaboration with Mitch Steele of Stone and Garrett of Maui. When the final product was bottled and sold under the Stone label, the project reached new heights of homebrewer fantasy.
One of the initial challenges of the project was to acquire the 1,000 lbs. of coconut, 300 lbs. of macadamia nuts, and 200 lbs. of 100% Kona Coffee that would be required to brew the beer with volume in Stone’s system. As you can imagine these are not cheap ingredients and not quite as abundant in Southern California as in Maui. The team used their resources and, naturally, made it happen. The second major challenge was to toast the 1,000 lbs. of coconut, a necessary process to pull out the flavors that would be imparted into the beer. The Stone Bistro Crew took up this task, which was done in the small bistro’s kitchen and took a whopping 32 hours to complete. Then, when it came to brewing day, in order to steep the essences of all these rare ingredients into the beer, steeping bags were required…a lot of them. In the end, 22 bags were required, more than Stone had available.
Keeping true to the collaborative spirit, the folks across town at Green Flash Brewing stepped up and lent a few of theirs to make up the difference.
A lot of people came together to make this beer possible, so let’s pay tribute to their efforts and tip one back. Here’s how it turned out:
No light can pass through the coffee black color of this beer. A very nice caramel shade is found in the head, which is fairly subdued on a vigorous pour and whimpers to near nothingness fairly quickly. Coffee possesses a very potent scent, and its presence in this beer dominates the nose. Chocolate and roasted malt does break through however on the tail end of the inhale. Each and every whiff seems to be slightly different from the last, a lot of nuances here. The nuts, as I suspected, are hard to place. I could image them sharing a buttery expression, but the stronger scents are too potent to allow it.
The mouthfeel is very slick and soft. Very little carbonation is felt, which matches the style well and would be off-putting here. This is essentially the best iced coffee (with no actually ice) I’ve ever had. It just so happens to be skillfully spiked with booze, which is slightly present as it warms. It has the aspects of coffee that I most enjoy, and leaves behind those I do not. The sweetness is just right. There is some oiliness and a dash of fruitiness. The chocolate and nut infusion adds complexity without stealing the stage and makes for an aftertaste that is not at all bitter or dry. That is a very key role here. The genius of their addition is now most evident.
It is the aftertaste of this porter that is most pleasurable for me. The aftertaste of coffee itself is often its least desirable attribute. You can feel it gripping to your tongue in a bitter rage and fouling the air before you with every word you speak. Coffee breath is deadly. Hell, beer breath might even be deadly, but, though this theory stands untested, I feel this concoction might intrigue a communicatory counterpart. Possibly, bait with curiosity and wonder.
As this brew gets further and further from iced coffee and closer to room temperature coffee, I am reminded of a coffee liquor and become obsessed with the thought of adding cream to this and making it a Caucasian…I mean, White Russian. Ah, even better yet, some vanilla ice cream would be just lovely in this beer. Yes, both editions would surely spoil the nuances of the flavor, but I can’t think of a better beer to experiment in those ways with. Such a shame this was brewed only once and is very limited. I’d say though, were any hope to exist for a repeat brewing, Stone would probably be the brewery most likely to issue it. There is precedence. Remember Stone’s 11th Anniversary Black IPA? Brewed once…and then made into a standard offering dubbed Sublimely Self Righteous.
Ultimately, this beer is not traditional. Not, as they say, liquid bread. This is liquid coffee-infused chocolate cake with little nut bits suspended within and coconut shavings on top. If that image doesn’t want you to try this beer you should check your pulse.
If you like Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter, you should try…
Kona Brewing Co.’s Pipeline Porter; Surley Brewing Co.’s Coffee Bender; Midnight Sun Brewing Co.’s Arctic Rhino Coffee Porter
Disclaimer: This beer was purchased on my own with my own hard earned money at a local bottle shop.