Craft beer and craft coffee. Yin and yang; AM and PM. The two go hand in hand. Coffee folks love craft beer, and beer folks love craft coffee. As it happens, the City of Chicago has a whole lot of both, and it’s really difficult to decide on a favorite producer of either beverage; sometimes, even those producers have a difficult time deciding.
The folks at Begyle Brewing recently faced that dilemma when deciding which roaster’s coffee they wanted to use in an imperialized version of their famous Flannel Pajamas Stout.
“We all drink a lot of coffee here at Begyle, and in that we talked about what our favorite Chicago coffee brands were,” explains Begyle founder, Matt Ritchey. “My business partner, Kevin Cary, and I used to live just around the corner from Ipsento and we both enjoyed their coffee. We reached out to them and they had a positive reaction to what we wanted to do, so they sent us four different beans to try.”
To brew the beer, Begyle put the coarsely ground coffee into fine nylon bags and then place the half-filled bags around the stand pipe in their bright tank before purging the tank with CO2. They racked the beer into that tank like they normally do, and started tasting the product after two days to decide when it’s ready to be bottled.
“The flavor gets to a point where it’s intense and maybe a tiny bit stronger than we want, just starting to get a little acidic in flavor (but not too much) and that’s when we package,” says Ritchey. “The packaging happens in one run to get the beer off the grounds before the flavor goes too far and to keep the batch uniform in flavor. We then sit on the beer for at least a week to let the flavor mellow before we start selling it. Right after packaging the coffee is usually more intense than desirable without being harsh and acidic.”
Of the four coffees provided, Ritchey says it was an easy decision to choose the best ingredient: “We all unanimously liked the Wild Fire espresso.”
Wildfire Espresso is comprised of two coffees: the first is a Guatemalan coffee from the San Rafael Urias Estate.
The San Rafael Urias Estate is located in the valley of Antigua. This region in Guatemala is known for consistently producing some of the highest grade coffees in a country known for consistently producing some of the most sought after Cup of Excellence coffees each year.
Three volcanoes tower above the estate, with mountain fed sources of naturally-filtered water nourishing the coffee plants. Raul and Isidro Valdes tend these shade-grown plants on an estate that has been in the Valdes family since the 1880’s, and over the past ten years their coffee has won four Cup of Excellence competitions.
The other component in this espresso blend is the Brazil FAF Bob-O-Link.
Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF) has been a coffee plantation since 1850 and has been owned and run by the Barretto family since the early 1900s. Since 2002, Silvia Barretto and her husband, Marcos Croce, have been working on transforming the farm into a model of sustainable organic agriculture and demonstrating how agriculture in Brazil can be productive and profitable while providing a happier living environment through the proper use of the land’s natural resources.
Bob-O-Link coffee comes from one of the highest coffee producing regions in Brazil. With altitudes ranging from 1000-1400 meters, this coffee is all family farmed. Instead of treating coffee as a homogenous product, FAF believe in focusing on smaller lots and harvesting unique flavors. Farmers work together and exchange information in order to innovate, evolve, and produce some of the most special coffees in the world. Philosophy at FAF is to achieve the highest quality out of each bean while taking into account social and environmental responsibility.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Imperial Pajamas Coffee Stout—a collaboration from Chicago’s Begyle Brewing and Ipsento Coffee. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Antigua, Guatemala // Mt. Mogiana, Brazil
farm: San Rafael Urias Estate // Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza
producer: Raul and Isidro Valdes // Barretto Family
elevation: 1700 // 1000 – 1400 meters above sea level
cultivar: Bourbon, Typica // Catuai, Burbon + Novo
process: fully washed, patio dried
style: Imperial Coffee Oatmeal Stout
ingredients: Coffee, Pale Malt, Roast Barley, Caramel 120L, Caramel, Flaked Oats, Malted Wheat, Debittered Black Malt, Chocolate Malt. Bravo Hops, Willamette Hops, US Perle
Cracking open the Imperial Pajamas, my nose is inundated with its heavy aroma. It’s a massive aroma, packed with scents of burnt chocolate malt, vanilla, burnt sugars, blackberry, and plum. Surprisingly, though, the generic “roasted coffee” smell that’s normally in these beers is pretty mild.
Visually, the beer pours a dark, solid black with a thick, foamy burnt caramel head that dissipates into a thin, half-finger tan head after a minute or two. A little while longer the foam fades to a thin halo, leaving small spots of lace.
Taking my first few sips, the taste is great and follows the nose; good mouthfeel, too—heavy-bodied, very thick and chewy, with mild carbonation. There is a good amount of bittersweet roasted chocolate malt, burnt sugars, caramel, heavy vanilla cream, and rolled oats. The espresso notes really come through with fruity notes of tart blackberry, plum, raisin, and black cherry, and the beer ends with a big, boozy finish; that high ABV is apparent, the alcohol is very noticeable without being too hot. A very pleasant drinking experience.
Full body; chewy mouthfeel; berry acidity; clean finish.
I’ve had some really great breakfast stouts over the years and, I have to say—Begyle Brewing’s Imperial Pajamas Coffee Stout was a damn fine take on an old, familiar style. It’s a bit boozy, with a slight burn throughout the finish, but it’s such a big, heavy beer that it actually remains very drinkable (even with its high ABV!).
If you want to know what to expect going in, the hint is in the title—it’s heavy, warming, comfortable, and familiar, but a bit rough around the edges.
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