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"All of the flavors really come through in their own time, nothing really jumps out at you, nothing’s really overpowering."

Mexican Coffee Stout

It’s definitely cooling down in South Jersey. It took us a while to get there, but the signs of fall are in the air and on the trees — you get to break out your favorite hoodie every day and watch as the leaves turn brilliant colors of red and gold and yellow.

And, as the weather turns cooler and the days become shorter, it’s time to turn your taste buds from the thirst-quenching beers of summer to the warming beers of winter. Break out those porters and those stouts — it’s time to start looking for something bone-clinging, maybe with a bit of heat to it.

“While I do believe that any beer can be had at any time of the year,” says Lab Manager Lauren Appleman, “there is just something about a viscous and roasty/chocolately stout when the weather gets cooler.”

That’s why it’s the perfect time of year to release our Mexican Coffee Stout, chock full of vanilla, cinnamon, and guajillo peppers.

“This is a full-bodied stout,” says Innovation Director Brian Hink. “It’s definitely not something you want to be chugging back — more of a sipper.”

While it’s not the biggest stout we’ve ever done, it’s definitely up there.

“It has a nice richness to it, very smooth,” Brian says. 

There’s a lot going on with this beer, at least as far as the malt is concerned. We’ve got a total of seven malts in this bad boy, putting it very high in the running for Most Malts in a CMBC Beer (which is an award that we just made up).

Brian feels it’s important to have a thoroughly complex malt bill in a beer like this one.

“You want it to be layered,” he says. “You don’t want it to be too roasty, or too chocolatey, or too cloyingly sweet — it needs to be balanced.”

A malt bill like this one presents a few challenges — it’s the great unknown.

“Not all malt is created equal,” Lauren says. “When you use a big variety of malts as we did in this one, we need to be aware of the differences in size, moisture content, color, extract, etc.”

Luckily, the malt providers give us a COA  — a certificate of analysis — that tells us all of that good stuff. However, we still need to run some tests on it before we really know how fermentation is going to proceed.

“When we brew up a new recipe, the lab will run what is called a rapid fermentation,” she explains. “Basically, when the wort gets knocked out into the fermenter with the yeast, we’ll pull off a small sample and throw it onto the hotplate with a stir bar in it. We mimic ideal fermentation parameters by keeping the yeast moving and at a constant, warm temperature. The rapid fermentation generally hits terminal within 48 hours, and that gives us a good idea of how the actual fermentation will go.”

With the amount of spices and adjuncts on this beer — coffee, cinnamon, vanilla, guajillo peppers — it was important for us to do these tests to ensure that our malt bill could be well-balanced.

“This beer is really in harmony,” Brian says. “Everything balances out nicely with nothing taking too strong of a forefront note.”

The cinnamon is present but not overpowering; the vanilla is complementary without taking center stage.

“The coffee is there, the guajillo is there, the base stout is very much there,” Brian says. “I really like how this one came out.”

There’s a little under a pound-per-barrel of coffee in our Mexican Coffee Stout.

“With the amount of dark grains in there we didn’t need to go too aggressively heavy with the coffee,” Brian explains.

We sort of “dry-spice” the coffee into the brew.

“We load up our dry-hopper with coffee and condition the beer on coarsely-ground coffee,” Brian explains. “It’s very similar to a cold brew process.”

Guajillo peppers are a new one for us — we’d never even heard of them before. They’re a relatively mild pepper — in the 2,500–5,000 Scoville unit range. (For comparison, jalepeños are 2,500-8,000 Scoville units; ghost peppers are over a million.) 

“I was talking with JP about what would be the best pepper to use for a touch of pepper flavor but not necessarily pepper heat,” Brian says, “and he instantly said guajillo was the way to go.”

Not only are guajillos perfect for this beer for their fruity and slightly sweet flavor, the fact that their name means “little gourd” make them perfect for Halloween!

Regardless, everyone is pretty psyched about this beer.

“I drank a lot of this beer when it was out as a RAD not too long ago,” Lauren says, “and the tweaks that we’ve made to the recipe since then have made the beer even better. I cannot wait to get a growler or two of this and cook with it. I’m thinking chili or some type of chocolate cake or brownies.”  

Sounds good to us, Lauren! Whip some up and bring it to work!

Brian is pleased with it, as well. 

“It’s a very adventurous beer and I think we pulled it off very nicely,” he says. “It’s well-balanced, rich, full of flavor, has a lot going on with it. It’s a fun beer and I’m glad we did it.”

This beer is the brainchild of Brewer Brad Young and Cellarman Tony Zappanbulso, suggested by them last year.

“It’s always fun to see beers like this come out,” Brian says.

And Brad and Tony are really pleased with how Mexican Coffee Stout came out, too.

“I like it a lot,” Brad says. “I think it’s really balanced. All of the flavors really come through in their own time, nothing really jumps out at you, nothing’s really overpowering. It’s really balanced. One thing’s not screaming at you — everything comes in just how it’s supposed to.”

Tony nodded in agreement.

“I dig it,” he says. “It’s one of my favorite styles, and all of the flavors come together really well. I don’t want to repeat what Brad just said, but he’s not wrong.”

Our well-balanced Mexican Coffee Stout is out for New Jersey distribution now, will be available on Friday in the Tasting Room on draft and for growler fills, and hits Pennsylvania next week. Cheers!