Posted November 10, 2009 by Big Red Boots in Alcohol energy drink

Surly Brewing’s Coffee Bender

It is no wonder why Coffee Bender from Surly brewing took home a medal at this years Great American Beer Festival. Todd Haug, the brewmaster, worked his meticulous process of extracting the all the succulent coffee nectar from the bean and wrapping it in a big malty brown package.

If you live anywhere near Surly Brewing in Brooklyn Center, or even the Twin Cities in Minnesota, and liked coffee or beer, and not have a six pack of this in your fridge you don’t know what you are missing. This is light enough for a summer ale, but still has enough alcohol to be a nice autumn drink too. Coffee Bender tastes like an iced-coffee, smells like a coffee house and drinks like a delicious malty brown ale should. Too bad Minnesota does not let them sell out of state or in growlers. They have a list of bars that sell their stuff on their website, at least.

Todd explained how meticulous his process is, from using their lighter brown Surly Brown ale to extract the coffee, using a unique brewing process and finding the right coffee blend and roast. The coffee they use is roasted locally at Coffee & Tea Limited in Linden Hill, where they use a special Guatemalan coffee blend called Finca Vista Hermosa, which means “Farm with Beautiful View”.Coffee and Tea buys this directly from the farmer, rather than through any distributors, grinds it nice and coarse, and sends it immediately off to Surly for turning into this masterpiece.

First thing that hits you is the smell of this coffee blend. While most coffee beers have a deep stout and very rich black flavor, this one is much lighter and maltier – like you would expect from a good strong breakfast coffee. The first thing you taste is the coffee, but then is tempered back by the rich malty and very slight bitter hoppiness. What I liked is that the flavor is complex, and definietly a rich nutty flavor, it is not the hearty mouthful that you would find in the usual stout coffee blends. I could easily drink three or four glasses in one sitting without feeling like I just sucked down a thanksgiving meal.

Surly does not know how much caffeine they have per pint, but figured out this much. They use High quality fresh Guatemalan coffee from the source and are careful not to overroast. Now, they might only have a couple ounces of coffee extracted per gallon, but they get it a very unique way.
Rather than do what most brewers do, which is to use water to make a cold toddy abnd then add that coffee into the beer, Surly uses their beer itself to extract the coffee from the bean, like making a coffee tincture. They end up with two ounces of coffee per gallon of beer, but Ill bet those to ounces are less like espresso, and more akin to beer flavored crack. The toddy method usually brews coffee 1/3 times stronger than your average brew, soaking it for 24 hours in their delicious brown ale most likely sucks out every tiny bit of flavor and caffeine right out of those poor coffee beans right into the brew. As Todd put it, ” Why ruin a great beer by adding water into it?”

Todd and Omar, the other founder of Surly, has been practicing the cold press method for 10 years – and know how to do it right. I only managed to have half a dozen ounces or so, and easily could have enjoyed another pitchers worth of this 5.2% ABV goodness. Soon, I hear, they are coming out with a stronger stoutier version, which might up the caffeine content too.

Big Red Boots