Back in the days when they were just starting out in the beer world, back when they still delivered their beers in person, Mountain Goat founders Cam Hines and Dave Bonighton struck up a friendship with the manager of Troika, a bar in Little Lonsdale Street that was one of the first brave enough to stock their Hightail Ale. Thirteen years later and they’re back in cahoots, working together to create the Goat’s latest special release.
The then Troika manager, Mark Dundon, left the bar world for coffee, founding Seven Seeds. And last summer, he and Dave began discussing putting coffee into beer.
“Most coffee beers match the espresso, bitter, roastiness of coffee with dark malts, but I’d always wanted to pair the fruitiness of coffee with fruity hops and make a Coffee IPA,” says Dave.
“The beer culture and the coffee culture tend to go together in places like the Seattle and Europe,” says Mark. “I’d always been up for doing something then Dave and I got talking a while back. I said we had some great contacts direct from the origin, including this really nice guy in Nicaragua.”
And so the process began. Mark selected the big-beaned Nicaraguan Finca El Limoncillo Pacamara (Natural Process), an “unusual varietal” with tropical, fruity characters such as prune and paw paw. The idea was that, with enough acidity to match with the hops, it would be used in a manner that it could do a similar job to the hops.
A few trials were undertaken, experimenting with how and when to add the beans to the brewing process. It was decided to roast the beans lightly so as to maintain much of their natural character, while Mark agreed to do the roasting on the day that the brew was taking place so the beans could be delivered as fresh as possible to the brewery.
“We kegged off the first batch and put it on at the Goat Bar and a few other brave pubs to test the waters,” says Dave. “The roasters and Mark all came down to Goat and had a few to see how we’d done. It was pats on backs, but we did decide to tone down the roast a smidge for the subsequent brews. It was a treat to taste the evolving flavours as we added the coffee at the different points.”
The result is the first commercially released coffee IPA in Australia, featuring Tassie Galaxy and US Cascade hops alongside the beans. In fact, it’s a style rarely found anywhere. Mikkeller has played around with the concept, highly rated British newcomer The Kernel has released an excellent one, but even in the days of black IPAs and Belgian stouts it’s an oddity.
“When I spoke to the guy in Nicaragua [who supplied the beans] and told him what we’d done,” says Mark, “he just said, ‘What!?!’.”
From this week, you can grab a Seedy Goat longneck and find out for yourself.
Dave: “Nuts and bolts are that we brewed our standard IPA with a slightly lower alcohol content and bitterness, allowing the coffee to take up the slack. We wanted to replace the hops with coffee – i.e. have coffee standing in for what hops would normally do in an IPA. The other thing was we wanted it to cross the whole palate – not just add a bolt-on flavour – so we added coffee at lots of stages thru the brew: a tiny amount late in the kettle (keg version), then at various stages through ferment and post-ferment.”
You can read The Crafty Pint’s take on the initial kegged batch here. We’ll report back on the bottled version soon.