Standing around the brew kettles in the cold, grey, pre-dawn light turns the mind toward coffee. For our friends at Ninkasi Brewing, coffee isn’t just a caffeine delivery device, it is a main ingredient in their recipe for our Beer Camp Across America variety 12-pack.
Hailing from Eugene, OR, Ninkasi knows a thing or two about a great cup of joe. Coffee and craft beer are regarded with near religious fervor in the Pacific Northwest, so it’s natural to combine them. Featuring coffee from the venerable Oregon roasting company Stumptown, this milk coffee stout is a play on a latte, the ubiquitous café-counter favorite.
“We wanted a beer with a strong coffee flavor,” said Jamie Floyd, Ninkasi co-founder and founding brewer, “but we also wanted to add some sweetness and body to balance it out.”
So what makes it a milk stout, you ask? Milk stout is a term for a dark beer, featuring roasted malts and specialty grains, to which a portion of lactose—milk sugar—has been added. Brewer’s yeast can’t ferment lactose so the sugar remains in the beer, adding sweetness and a creamy body to the finished product.
In addition to the coffee, this stout also uses several dark roasted grains which contribute a deeper complexity to the beer. Highly kilned crystal and caramel malts add notes of raisin and cocoa, while the use of black malt amps up the roasted flavors and contributes a mild astringency, which helps offset the sugary sweetness.
Hops in this stout are almost an afterthought—the blasphemy!—and are mainly used for the initial bittering properties and beer stability. That isn’t to say that Ninkasi doesn’t like hops, quite the contrary. They got their start in 2006 with a beer called Total Domination IPA and have skyrocketed with craft beer fanatics for hop bombs like Tricerahops, a bracing, bright and aromatic Double IPA.
“We wanted to do something different for the variety pack,” Jamie said. “Everybody knows that [Sierra Nevada] loves hops and we’re hop fanatics, but an IPA would have been expected… We said, let’s do something else, something dark. We tried a coffee version of our Imperiale [stout] and then I had the idea to do a latte, so we’re going for it.”
From barista to bar stool, this coffeehouse collaboration will surely be a shining star in this summer’s Beer Camp Across America mixed pack.