The Graveyard Shift Coffee Pale Ale collaboration comes from two of the most exciting Chicago-based craft beverage producers: Arcade Brewery and Dark Matter Coffee Company. The collaboration came about through a friendship between the two companies.
The beer was part of Arcade’s Public Brew series, a quarterly beer where they crowd source the name and label from the community through various competitions. The recipe for Graveyard Shift Coffee Pale Ale came from some very successful test batches that Arcade wanted to scale-up.
“My partner, Lance Curran, is friends with some of the guys at Dark Matter,” explains Chris Tourre, owner and brewmaster of Arcade Brewery. “We love their coffee and culture, and thought it would be a great fit. We had an idea to make a coffee pale ale, but didn’t want to add too much roast flavor to the coffee. We wanted to highlight the nutty and fruity flavors of the beans. They guided us through the whole process to get the best coffee to meet our desires.”
The coffee Dark Matter chose was the renown Mexico El Eden.
They added two versions of the coffee, both a washed and a natural-processed coffee, to the beer at different periods of the brewing process.
After Arcade brewed the beer, they “dry-hopped” the washed El Eden, which means they simply added coarsely-ground coffee into the tank of beer after fermentation had completed. They added the coffee to the top and it slowly fell to the bottom of the tank over a 48-hour period. At that point, they bled the tank to remove the coffee grounds from the beer.
After another day or so of conditioning the beer at colder temperatures, they added over two kegs of cold-brewed natural El Eden to lower the ABV in the beer and add a fresh coffee flavor and aroma.
MEXICO EL EDEN
Dark Matter’s coffee comes from the El Eden Cooperative, in the Guerrero state of Mexico, and represents an exciting new relationship for Quills. El Eden is a very small cooperative (it only consists of fifteen members) nestled in the heart of Guerrero, Mexico, just northwest of Oaxaca—an area certainly not known as a high-quality coffee producing region of Mexico.
These farmers are a small collection of growers with strong initiative and courage in an area stifled by drugs and violence. This is demonstrated in the decidedly unique direction they have taken with their coffee, differentiating it from other Mexican coffees by choosing a natural process in which the coffee is dried while still in the fruit, instead of skinned and washed immediately.
This process is not common in Mexico, and is much more labor-intensive, but the end result can be phenomenal when done well, as is the case here.
This non-traditional Mexican coffee is a testament to the co-op’s dedication. From individual member separation in the processing, to hand sorting of the final product and their organic growth practices, El Eden is setting out to prove that Mexican coffee can be a truly special thing.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Graveyard Shift Coffee Pale Ale—a collaboration between Chicago’s Dark Matter Coffee Company and Arcade Brewing. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Guerrero, Mexico
farm: Finca El Eden
producer: Adan Hernandez // Miguel Teodoro
association: El Eden Cooperative
elevation: 1250 // 1350 meters above sea level
process: natural // fully washed, patio dried
style: Coffee Pale Ale
color: Dark Amber
ingredients: Coffee, 2-Row Barley, Red Wheat, Columbus Hops
stemware: Nonic Pint
The aroma of the Graveyard Shift Pale Ale—just as I anticipated it would be—is super complex. Some pretty interesting scents happening all at once here: coffee (obviously), vanilla, malt, molasses, burnt sugars… There’s something of a pungent bitterness in the aroma, too, which I presume are the Columbus hop’s big contribution. Visually, again, a very interesting sight to behold: it pours a dark, hazy amber—a burnt sienna orange coloring—with a really nice head—a little over one-finger width of bubbly off-white foam.
The taste of the beer follows the nose; very complex, very different from your typical APA/IPA (or any coffee-beer, for that matter). It has a medium body to it and a smooth, creamy mouthfeel, but it’s also very carbonated. While the beer is still pretty cold, I’m not getting many flavors besides the hops (which are very prominent), something that tastes vegetal but bitter (is that rhubarb?), and caramel.
The longer it sits, though, and the closer to room temperature it gets (right around 60° right now), the beer presents my palate with a lot of flavors that I’m really digging: caramel, vanilla, raw cocoa nibs, malt, black licorice, chicory, and a zesty citric acidity, while cloves, cinnamon, coriander, and bakers spices play out through a bitter coffee finish.
Medium body; creamy mouthfeel; citric acidity; clean finish.
I experienced the Graveyard Shift Coffee Pale Ale in three stages: 1) this beer is weird and it makes me feel weird and I don’t like it; 2) you know, this beer is a very complex and interesting experiment in coffee-infused beer brewing; 3) this beer is freaking delicious. The first few sips were—I’ll admit it—unappealing. But as I sipped on it more, the flavors developed and this beer really grew on me.
It’s different, it’s weird, it’s unorthodox, and it’s pretty damn good. No frills, no gimmicks. Just a very unique collaborative offering from two of the most different, weirdest, most unorthodox craft beverage producers in the City of Chicago.
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