Don’t you just love it when two of your favourite flavours combine perfectly? Things like bacon and maple syrup; a sprinkle of sea salt and dark chocolate and, possibly the best combo of all, coffee and beer. It’s no surprise that keen coffee drinkers are often also into their craft beers, and many a coffee beer has been created in order to satiate both thirsts in one glorious gulp.
Is coffee and beer a good mix?
The small-batch coffee and craft beer scenes have grown up alongside each other, capturing the imaginations of folks looking for high-quality products while supporting independent businesses. Both coffee roasters and brewers have a passion for unearthing incredible ingredients, experimenting with processes to squeeze the best out of them, with an added dash of reverence to traditional, sometimes forgotten techniques for good measure.
When intrepid brewers first explored using additions to enhance and amplify their beers, coffee was a no-brainer and, as these brews have become a familiar feature of many modern offerings, collabs with coffee roasters have become commonplace, like Siren’s Project Barista series (more on that later).
What styles of coffee beers are there?
As the rich aromas and flavours of coffee have plenty in common with those of roasted malts, it’s dark beers that dominate the world of coffee beers. In fact, many coffee lovers would note these similarities from Stouts and Porters that don’t include coffee additions.
However, once a sprinkling of coffee is involved, either as steeped beans at the beginning, or at the end as cold brew, things move up a notch. The bigger the brew, the more intense the coffee flavour, and it’s in decadent and delightful Imperial Stouts when these notes are cranked all the way up to 11.
If you’re looking for a coffee hit from your beer, it’s not all about big ABVs, though. Porters and Dark Lagers can be brewed with coffee additions and straddle the sweet spot between the full flavour of coffee and the refreshing finish of a crisp beer. Beyond that, some particularly crafty brewers have used coffee for paler styles that you wouldn’t typically have thought of, to devastatingly drinkable effect.
Is there caffeine in coffee beers?
With many coffee beers being Stouts and Porters, they’re a popular choice for a cosy evening in. However, too much caffeine often doesn’t. The good news is that the caffeine impact of one of these beers is negligible. In fact, many breweries don’t list the caffeine quantities in their beers because the proportion of coffee to beer is very small. After all, the coffee added to the brew is there to enhance aroma and flavour rather than give you that kind of buzz. That said, there will always be some element of caffeine so maybe it’s a good idea not to session a bunch of these brews too late at night.
Some of our current favourite coffee beers:
Siren Craft Brew: Project Barista
This annual series aims to move the relationship between coffee and beer in new directions, working with four different independent roasters. To decide what they’re brewing, Siren come up with a tasty concept first, before attempting to explain it in a clear way using reference to traditional styles. 2021 sees a Lemon and Coffee Gose, a twist on an English Special Bitter, Coffee Doppelbock, and of course an essential, showstopping Imperial Stout.
Shindigger: Iced Coffee Black Pilsner
Striking the balance between a dark roasty aroma and a quaffable crisp finish, this is a beer that faithfully recreates its namesake. After fermentation, this Black Pilsner is cold brewed with Ethiopian coffee from ShinDigger’s Manchester neighbours, Ancoats Coffee.
SALT: Hessian Coffee & Cacao Stout
This ideal union of coffee beer and chocolate emphasises the aromas and flavours of roasted malt, while keeping the ABV on the lower side. Forget ice cream for dessert, this is the weeknight delight you deserve.
Magic Rock: Common Grounds Coffee Porter
Full-bodied and wonderfully roasty, Huddersfield’s Magic Rock have worked closely with local roasters Darkwoods to create this beer. The result is a blend of seven different malts and three different coffees in the form of a reassuringly warming Porter.
Siren Craft Brew: Broken Dream Breakfast Stout
One of Siren’s core beers, this silky smooth one-two of coffee and cacao is the beer equivalent of a mocha. Chocolatey, without being too sweet, and bitter, without overdoing it; Broken Dream is a true crowd-pleaser and one of our bestselling beers.