We are very excited to release our latest 'white label' beer - Dubbel Espresso. I would rate this as the most challenging of our one-off and experimental range to date.
At the beginning of this year, I mapped out potential white label brews and made a note - 'coffee beer, not stout or porter!'. Nothing wrong with a good coffee stout but the point of this range is to try new techniques and styles. We settled on a Belgian style Dubbel, a strong, dark abbey ale that we thought would be a great match for coffee aromas and flavours.
Given the nature of the beer we decided to do a test batch to trial different methods of blending in coffee. Gez and I brewed 40L on my old homebrew 'pilot kit', splitting the resulting beer into 2 fermenters. We used White Labs' WLP500 as the yeast strain which is sourced from a Belgian monastery. The base beer turned out great - rich and malty with dried fruit, chocolate and molasses flavours.
We partnered with Round Hill Roastery in Midsomer Norton to source great coffee and draw on Eddie's previous experience of working with breweries wanting to add coffee to beer. Evan (who also knows a thing or two about coffee, having previously co-owned Dusty Ape) visited and selected a couple of varieties to work with. Our initial experiments involved cold brewing with coarsely ground beans and steeping beans directly in the beer. Although both methods imparted some coffee flavour they both detracted from the base beer's flavour - muting the flavours we started with. The steeped beans also added astringency after a couple of days.
By now we had brewed the full scale batch of Dubbel, so our next tests used samples drawn from this. We tried using a strong brew made in a standard French press and added varying quantities to the beer. This gave a better aroma and flavour than the previous attempts but again 'numbed' or 'flattened' the underlying beer.
After more discussions with Eddie at Round Hill and also Michael at Wiper & True, who had also worked with adding coffee to beer, we tried another approach. This time we brewed shots of espresso and added small quantities to the Dubbel in the region of 0.5-1.0%. Success! The aroma and flavour were just what we were after but critically it melded beautifully with the underlying beer's flavours. Phew!
Evan went back to Round Hill and selected another coffee to work with that was more suitable for espresso - choosing beans from a farm in Honduras with tasting notes of prune, grape and milk chocolate.
Evan worked with Meg from the Bunch of Grapes to pull 7 litres(!) of espresso over several hours. As soon as they were done we brought the coffee back to the brewery in a sanitised stainless steel container for final testing. Evan, Gez and I experimented on a small sample before pumping hundreds of shots of espresso into the beer. The aroma and flavour were outstanding and well worth the effort. We hope you agree! Available in cans from 21/11/20 and 750ml champagne bottles soon after that.
Thanks to all those who helped us with this project!