Friday, August 3, 2012
Sleep Over Coffee IIPA
In honor of yesterday being IPA Day, I decided to crack open one of the most intriguing beers that I had in the fridge. I remember doing a double-take when I saw the label at a local bottle shop and knew immediately that I wanted to experience the mystery that is the coffee IPA. Admittedly, I'm a big fan of coffee as an ingredient in beer and one of my all-time favorites (Founders' KBS) is brewed with the bean. Of course, like anything else brewing-related, the use or inclusion of coffee as an ingredient is an art: too much and it's overkill, not enough and it will produce a confounding off-note. Of course, in the proper amount (and the proper variety), it can elevate an ordinary beer into something unforgettable.
In my experience thus far, I have had coffee in only two styles of beer: porters and stouts. It stands to reason that these beer genres would take well to the ingredient because of their generally roasted, malty natures as well as other commonly found elements that pair well with coffee such as chocolate and dark fruits. As such (and given the fact that coffee, in its own right, is a dark drink), I've come to associate it with darker if not heavier styles of beer. I was a bit concerned about how it would mesh with the flavor elements characteristic of an American Imperial IPA let alone what it would do to the appearance.
Beginning with what I saw as I poured, I was surprised by how cloudy the beer was as it filled the glass. It reminded me more of an unfiltered wheat ale or a golden-amber brew with sediment disturbed by the pour (typically a Belgian beer). The head was not as uniform and cohesive as I am used to (as you can see by the lacing that appeared barely seconds after the bottle had been emptied) and it frankly had a strange appearance, in general. It dissipated quickly but not altogether; enough remained to contribute some texture to my first sip.
Of course, as powerful as my curiosity was about the color of the beer, it paled in comparison to my intrigue about the aroma and flavor. I took a healthy pre-sip whiff and got exactly what I expected: a mixture of hops and coffee. The big mystery for me, though, was how the two would fare together and, at least in the initial bouquet, they seemed to play well. The first sip followed the nose almost exactly: the sweet, delicious hoppiness that is typical of the American DIPA in conjunction with the awesome coffee flavor of a well-balanced porter or stout. Truthfully, the coffee itself actually reminded me of the flavor that penetrates a room temperature KBS, which obviously scored major points for the Sleep Over Coffee IIPA.
Overall, the beer was medium-bodied and remained uniform in terms of its flavors throughout the taste. My final reaction to it was that it was interesting--certainly worth trying--but not overwhelmingly incredible. As noted earlier, the hops and coffee played well together but they never really melded; there was harmony but no synergy--a balance but no union of sorts. The best comparison I can think to make is when you layer two beers in a glass that don't complement or degrade one another. I was enjoying two ingredients/flavor profiles that I generally enjoy simultaneously and yet there was nothing special or spectacular about it. In a way, I kind of feel like I could have achieved the same effect by using my Dogfish Head Randall Jr. to infuse a 90 Minute IPA with coffee.
For a fan of IPAs, it's definitely worth trying but it's not something I can see myself adding to the regular rotation.