Cape May Coffee Stout
We’ve been brewing coffee stouts for years, practically since we opened our doors. In that time, we’ve learned a lot — about coffee and how to best present it in a beer.
So, the final culmination of all of those efforts come to fruition today: Cape May Coffee Stout releases in 12oz cans!
It’s actually our third.
No, there is too much. Lemme sum up.
Originally, we began brewing Avalon Coffee Stout, sourcing our coffee from Avalon Coffee, right up the street from the brewery. However, among other reasons, we thought that having two Jersey Shore town names in one beer was overkill and a little confusing, so we switched up the name.
Thus, Avalon Coffee Stout was rechristened as Fresh Brewed Coffee Stout. Same beer, different name. Yet, some of us thought that name implied that our other beers were somehow not fresh brewed. So, Fresh Brewed Coffee Stout only saw one brew before the name was changed. Again.
Then Fresh Brewed Coffee Stout — aka Avalon Coffee Stout — was again renamed as Wakey Wakey Coffee Stout. Aaaannnddd… that one didn’t stick, either.
Here’s the thing: those three beers were, essentially, all the same beer. Really, we couldn’t decide upon a name, so it kept getting renamed.
But, the unifying factor is that all of these beers were our Cape May Sweet Stout — aka Cape May Stout — conditioned on a blend of coffee. The coffee blends varied slightly from year to year, but there wasn’t a huge change in the outcome. And, while Cape May (Sweet) Stout is a good stout, we brewed it for several applications — including standing on its own — instead of brewing a beer specifically to be conditioned on coffee.
Then, last year, released Mexican Coffee Stout. This time, we approached the beer from a new standpoint.
“Mexican Coffee Stout was a completely new beer and a complete overhaul on our approach to stout construction,” says Production Planning and Special Projects Manager Brian Hink.
Conditioned on cinnamon, guajillo peppers, and vanilla — in addition to its unique coffee blend — we worked on the malt bill for Mexican Coffee Stout, modifying it from the more generic malt bill in Cape May Stout.
Even still, Cape May Coffee Stout is a completely new beer, but it’s a lot closer to Mexican Coffee Stout than Avalon/Fresh Brewed/Wakey Wakey Coffee Stout, particularly in the grain bill.
“We took what we learned from Mexican Coffee Stout and tweaked it a bit to make it it’s own thing in Cape May Coffee Stout,” Brian says. “This new iteration of Cape May Coffee Stout is closer to Mexican Coffee Stout in the grain bill than any of the other beers, but even still it was tailored with this end result in mind.”
Throughout all of these beers, we’ve changed our approach to stouts quite a bit.
“Where we used to brew them with four different malts and a good amount of roastiness from the roasted barley,” Brian says, “we’ve started to dial back on the barley roastiness while also increasing the malt bill to include seven or eight different grains. That complexity really helps layer the rich, malty profile, weaving between coffee and chocolate, sweet and smooth, to slightly roasty but also rich and inviting. It’s really a fullness to the flavor profile that can only come through an extensive malt bill.”
And, with a malt bill as complex as this, you’re going to want the rest of the recipe — the hops and the yeast — to get out of the way, so we’ve used Bravo in the hop bill for just the right amount of balancing bitterness and our London Ale III yeast strain.
“We ferment our stouts a little cooler than our hoppy beers to suppress the ester profile,” Brian says, “but London Ale III has a nice well-rounded finish that really fills out these kinds of beers.”
But, let’s face it, if we’re going to call a beer Cape May Coffee Stout, the most important ingredient is the coffee. Luckily, our very own Brian Hink knows almost as much about coffee as he does about beer, having spent some thirteen years of his pre-beer life as a barista (until the big, mean, well-known coffee conglomerate asked him to trim his beard and he decided he cared more about the beard than the job, so he came to work in an industry where big, manly beards are encouraged).
“I love coffee,” he says. “It truly is my first love. I spent the first half of my coffee career working for an independent mom and pop coffee shop on the Ocean City boardwalk called Java Jane’s.”
Java Jane’s has since closed their storefront on the boardwalk, but they maintain a small coffee cart and a roasting business. When we’re brewing with coffee, Brian will hit up the owner, also named Brian, and the two Brians will collaborate to get us what we’re looking for.
“But Brian stays up on the coffee world way more than I do,” Brian says, “so he’ll offer suggestions or tweaks to the blends I request, and he also picks out the specific lots for the coffee we’re looking for.”
For Cape May Coffee Stout, we went with a “Full City + Roast” blend where the beans are just beginning to approach “second crack”.
You see, when you’re roasting coffee beans, they crack open. The first time, around 400-420°, they’ll crack open a little bit, then 20° or so later, they’ll crack again. There are a number of roast levels between the two cracks — for a light or blonde roast, the roaster will drop the beans into the cooling bin almost immediately after the first crack. For a dark roast, they’ll let them go a bit longer after the second crack.
“We wanted a roast level close enough to the second crack to start pulling oils out of the bean, but not so late into the second crack that you’re only drinking roastiness,” Brian says. “We wanted balance.”
Brian at Java Jane’s took our request and roasted us up the perfect blend.
“Knowing the individual beans in the blend, he figured out exactly when to ‘drop’ the batch from the roasting drum to the cooling bin — because each and every bean has different characteristics and will hit their own cracks at different temperatures,” Brian explains, “so you need to know the varietals you’re working with.”
If Brian — our Brian — ever leaves the brewing industry (perish the thought!), odds are that you may be able to find him roasting coffee somewhere.
“Roasting is a lot of fun and I definitely miss it,” he says. “Last year, I went up to Brian’s shop and spent the day roasting with him, but this year, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get to partake in any of the roasts.”
For Cape May Coffee Stout, we did the coffee addition a little differently than our previous coffee stouts. Instead of conditioning the beer directly upon ground coffee beans, we created a coffee concentrate where we steeped the coarsely ground coffee on tepid filtered water, then sent the coffee to the brite tank where we centrifuged the beer.
“We blended that with the beer rather than have the beans touch the beer at all,” says Lab Manager Lauren Appleman. “Coffee concentrate is like cold brew on steroids and it is glorious.”
And Lauren knows coffee, too. Maybe not to the extent that Brian does, but, considering the fact that Lauren is one of the first people in the building in the mornings, her day wouldn’t happen without coffee.
“My alarm goes off wayyyy too early in the morning,” she says, “and I am in here by 5am to start off the day. If you were to come in here that early and I didn’t have coffee going, something would be very, very wrong.”
Luckily for Lauren — and the rest of you good folks who need a jolt of caffeine to get your engines going in the mornings — Cape May Coffee Stout has approximately 20 mg of caffeine per can. That’s a lot less than an equivalent amount of coffee, which has about 140 mg, so you’ll need seven cans of Cape May Coffee Stout to equal the caffeine in one 12oz serving of coffee, and at 6.5% ABV, you’ll be drunk long before you’ll get buzzed.
“For comparison’s sake, this is around the caffeine content in a serving of green tea,” Brian says.
But green tea doesn’t have an amazing stout base.
And, with Cape May Coffee Stout, you can start your day the Cape May way!
“This is a great breakfast beer!” Brian says. “But it’s also the perfect cool fall evening beer, too.”
“If anything can be breakfast food, why can’t beer be a breakfast drink?” she asks, rhetorically. “I will most definitely drink one of these with breakfast.”
However, she has greater plans for Cape May Coffee Stout.
“I actually have plans to make some brownies with this beer,” she says, “and by that, I mean I have plans to make my husband make brownies with the beer. He’s the baker because the precision required for baking just isn’t my style. Funny that a scientist hates having to be precise!”
However you intend to enjoy Cape May Coffee Stout, be sure to grab some soon! Cape May Coffee Stout releases today in the Tasting Room and Brewtique, on Monday throughout New Jersey, and November 2nd in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Check our Beer Finder for a location near you!