Like any other adjunct ingredient, coffee beers are either a wonderful hit or a woeful miss. Often, though, it’s only a raging success for the 2 oz. pour at the beer festival and, when it comes to drinking a full pint, the flavors lose subtlety.
In Summit’s ongoing Unchained series, the mission is to let a brewer play and create instead of focusing on the production brewery’s core line-up. While Summit hits on all styles of beers, for the most part they brew English and German-inspired styles. A coffee milk stout is a new direction, and using cold press from local Blackeye Roasting Company gives an added boost, as they make one of the finer coffees around.
This beer is, as the style suggests, thick, dark and heavy. It pours jet black with a billowing tan head and goes down with a soft and creamy mouthfeel. Coffee leads the first impression and it finishes on the milky side, bitter to start and sweet at the end. Within the robust and roasty coffee + stout flavor profile is a surprising 8.5% ABV that tastes more sessionable despite the big flavors. That’s because the coffee really defines this beer, using a nutty stout as a foundation.
Like many hop-forward beers, the malty stout is used as a base to highlight another powerful and delicious flavor, in this case the alternately dark chocolate and cacao nib flavors within the coffee. It begins with a big coffee bouquet, met by earthy subtleties in the middle, before a sweet chocolate milk finish that’s counterbalanced by the ever-present bitter aromatics of a fine cold press. It’s arguably a 60/40 coffee-to-beer ratio, and each ingredient merges perfectly together to form a new whole.
Brewery: Summit Brewing Company
City: St. Paul, MN
Style: Coffee stout
Availability: 16 oz. cans
Loren Green is a Minneapolis writer covering beer, music, and more. Follow him on Twitter at @lorenmgreen.