The weeks seem longer lately as we countdown to a big trip to Mexico with friends. This week has been particularly long, so what better way to break up a work week than with a beer tasting?!
On Wednesday, we went to Hugh Acheson’s Savannah restaurant, The Florence, to join in on a special beer event. The drinks are always great, but on this night we were there for a flight of Terrapin’s most recent release; a single origin coffee stout.
As you probably know, the craft beer world is small, so fostering strong relationships is an important part of their growth and success. Craft breweries often pair up with other local businesses in their area to produce an ultra-unique, one of a kind brew. This isn't the first time that Terrapin has collaborated with their local friends at Jittery Joe's Coffee in Athens, Georgia; however this beer is different from past collaborations.
The base is a smooth and simple stout recipe with a low ABV. They use coffee beans from around the globe to showcase the variety of flavor profiles each one presents. Four beans were selected for each of the beers: Kona (Hawaii), Ethiopian (Oromia Region), Sumatra (Sidiklang), and Guatemalan (Huehuetenango).
Just like each style of beer has its own traditional brew style, diverse coffee beans also require different modes of roasting. Each bean has a specific grading scale, which can be very confusing since each Country of origin has its own scale. If you would like to read more about this scale, check out this Food and Agriculture Organization chart.
Next time you enjoy a cup of coffee, keep in mind that the beans are really from fruit. Coffee beans are actually the seeds from a stone fruit- like a cherry- that can be washed or not. Terrapin has included two of each of these processing styles in their beers. The wet process, or washed coffee, involves removing the bean from the fruit by means of a machine, called a pulper. Then the bean is fermented in water for a few days- in order to bring out the aroma’s- and are then dried. In the unwashed process, also known as “dry” or “natural”, the method is older and much simpler. The fruits are first rinsed, then laid out to dry in the sun. After drying, the beans are carefully removed from the dried fruit and ready to be used.
Why am I going into such detail about the processes of wash vs unwashed? It’s simple… the TASTE.
With the two washed bean versions used in the Ethiopian and Sumatra beers, the fruit notes were very present. Ethiopian has notes of strawberry jam and melon, while the Sumatra features notes of pineapple. That is the hallmark of washed coffee: more fruit notes as well as slightly more acidic. Both are very present in the beer, with slight acidity on the finish. The Sumatra had a little less acidity on the finish compared to the Ethiopian and was little smoother overall. Of the two, I would pick the Sumatra.
While the Kona and the Guatemalan beers featured unwashed beans, fruit and acidity were not lacking. I do like fruit qualities in dark beers, and both are very well done. I preferred these varieties over the other two because they both are very smooth. The Kona has some hints of tea, which is not surprising after learning that dry coffee beans are produced in a similar manner. The Guatemalan has some notes of pepper which is reminiscent of some of my favorite scotches and bourbons. The Guatemalan is my favorite of the four.
It's a pretty cool way to learn about the differences in coffee, since I don't typically drink the stuff unless it's in my beer. My wife would beg to differ with the [I deem] occasional sips of her morning Joe. I've learned so much here and hope you picked up a few things along the way. Cheers to more than just drinking beer to drink beer, its research!
They are packaged in four 12oz bottles, and I am going to need to get two for further research!