The Best Coffee Beers to Pick Based on Your Favorite Coffee Drink
Iced coffee season is officially over, as much as you may deny it. The mercury is dropping, which leaves fans of cold coffee with less justification to enjoy a morning cold brew in November. But like any therapist might tell you, it's important to seek out opportunity amongst difficult changes. Just because iced coffee might be off the menu for all but the most ardent aficionados doesn't mean that you can't find a way to enjoy a cold cup of coffee. All you have to do is switch over to the only beverage that's superior to coffee: beer.
Yes, the selection of coffee-infused beer has grown well beyond coffee stouts and porters. This year's crop of coffee beers include IPAs, Belgian saisons, nitro-infused porters, and even a pumpkin spice latte beer for good measure. Now, you can find a beer that matches almost any one of your favorite coffee drinks, whether that means replicating the strong aroma of a ristretto or the subtle balance of a latte. Here are some of the newest, best, and brightest coffee beer varieties currently out on shelves—and a guide to which you should pick based on your favorite coffee drink of choice.
If you like a vanilla latte, then drink...
Breckenridge Brewery Nitro Vanilla Porter
A vanilla latte remains as a go-to for almost any coffee lover. It's the little black dress of caffeinated beverages: it's basically good for all seasons and spirits. But what if you want something that has all of that vanilla creamy goodness with a boozy bite, too? After all, an Irish coffee isn't always a reasonable option for a mid-Sunday sip.
Instead, opt for a Breckenridge Brewery Nitro Vanilla Porter. This Colorado-based brewery has pumped out bottles of Vanilla Porter for years, but made the move to put this beer in nitrogenated cans in 2016. Much like nitro cold brew, Nitro Vanilla Porter pours with a creamy, white head that cascades up the glass. It has a froth that's similar to the foam on a latte. Best of all, the beer's coffee malt and vanilla notes create a facsimile of a vanilla latte. And just like any latte worth its sugar, Nitro Vanilla Porter has just enough bitter bite on the back to make you think you're knocking back a big pint of coffee.
If you like an espresso shot, then drink...
Green Flash Cosmic Ristretto
Espresso-heads, rejoice. A true, honest-to-God espresso stout. Green Flash Cosmic Ristretto goes where few (if any beers) have successfully gone before by creating an espresso stout that truly captures the dark, complex, nutty complexity of espresso. Most espresso stouts have a bit of dark-roast coffee added before or after fermentation, but many end up tasting more like a strong cup of drip coffee, rather than a complex shot of espresso.
But Green Flash's Cosmic Ristretto goes the extra mile, perfectly mimicking a ristretto (an espresso variety that uses half the amount of water for the same amount of coffee grinds). The beer pours pitch black with a head that looks exactly like crema, and gives off strong coffee notes straight away. On first taste, Cosmic Ristretto is dark, toasty, and even a bit viscous. But as it warms, strong espresso notes give way to a sweet, sugary taste that may remind you of toffee. A word of caution, however, as this Baltic porter comes in at a whopping 8.2 percent ABV. So just like real espresso, you'll want to sip this brew slowly.
If you like a dirty chai latte, then drink...
Blue Point Oatmeal Stout
One of the coolest things about stouts is that you don't always need to add coffee in order to get the taste of it in your pint. By adding coffee malts—barley that is put in a kiln until it's dark and toasty—brewers can replicate the complex bitter and sweet flavors of coffee without adding any of the acidic compounds found in your typical mild roast. This works particularly well in Blue Point Brewing Company's Oatmeal Stout, which replicates the complex, spicy flavors of a dirty chai latte. The beer has rich notes of dried fruit, chocolate, coffee flavors, and even a hint of bourbon. Best of all, the inclusion of flaked oatmeal creates a creamy, full mouthfeel to amplify that latte goodness. So although Blue Point Oatmeal Stout might not be aiming to replicate a chai latte, this beer's a must-try for anyone who loves to start their day with one.
If you like cold-brew coffee, then drink...
Rogue Cold Brew IPA
I know what you may be thinking—a cold brew IPA? That's like combining the two most recognizable and arguably overhyped kinds of coffee and beer into one megatron-esque beverage. But trust me on this one: cold brew works really well in an IPA—just don't ask me how.
Rogue Cold Brew IPA blends in 200 gallons of Stumptown Coffee Roasters' cold brew in every batch of beer, giving it a distinct coffee aroma that blends interestingly with the beer's hoppy, sweet nose. If you've ever had a cup of coffee and a beer simultaneously at brunch, this beer is sort of like a vastly improved version of that combo, with complex interplay between coffee flavor, malty sweetness, and hoppy bitterness. Rogue Cold Brew IPA pours a dark copper, as the coffee darkens what is otherwise a very orange-yellow beer variety, and leaves a huge, frothy head in your glass. If you didn't know any better, you'd think you were drinking coffee out of a pint glass. Best of all, this beer allows you to enjoy cold brew even when it's not iced coffee season.
If you like single-origin pour over, then drink...
Allagash Brewing Co.'s James Bean
If you love the subtle complexity of a single-origin coffee, expertly brewed by hand in a Hario V60, then Allagash Brewing Company's James Bean is the beer for you. This beer is big, bright, and floral—notes you would find yourself searching for in a well-extracted cup of specialty coffee.
James Bean is definitely not your typical coffee beer: first, it's a Belgian-style strong ale, rather than a coffee stout. Second, it's aged in bourbon barrels to give the beer a deeper, more complex flavor profile. And finally, James Bean is topped off with cold-pressed coffee from Maine's own Speckled Ax coffee company.
For this brew, Speckled Ax offered up their Amaro Gayo, an Ethiopian natural process coffee that yields a balanced, fruit-forward coffee. This helps temper the taste of the underlying Belgian strong ale, a style known for being not only sweet but a bit alcoholic on the palate. But be careful with this one—at 10.4 percent ABV, it's only a few points shy of a barleywine. Leave this one in the cellar until you've got company, but make sure you bust it out if you want to show off your amazing taste to your friends. Oh, and thank me later.