Roast Masters: Exploring the Art of Brewing Beer with Coffee
Augie Carton had the usual morning routine. Commuting from his New Jersey shore town into Manhattan, his first stop would be at his local deli, where he’d order a breakfast sandwich and a regular coffee. In his mind, Carton, a native of Atlantic Highliands on the Jersey shore, regular always meant black. When he got a few miles down the road, however, and took the first sip from the paper cup with plastic lid, he’d be greeted by a burnt roast lightened with cream and sweetened with two sugars, the deli’s version of “regular.”
“Every time I hoped they would get it right,” he says. “Every time it bit me in the ass.”
He kept the memory, and when he finally opened his Carton Brewing Co. in Atlantic Highlands, NJ, several years ago, and the customer requests for a coffee beer kept coming and coming, he worked with a local roaster and his brewers to create a beer that would taste like the light and sweet coffee he painfully remembered.
The brewery’s “Regular Coffee” is a cream ale, brewed with lactose sugar and Sidamo and Chiapas coffee beans. The result is what Carton calls “a cool version of shitty coffee, the kind that’s been in the urn since 6 a.m. when you get there at 9.”
Using a half gallon of doubled-brewed coffee for every 20 gallons of beer, the ale has taken on a darker yellow color, not quite the tan of milk in actual coffee and not dark like many other coffee beers.
“We didn’t want it to be a weird brown color,” Carton says. Since being released earlier this year, Regular Coffee has quickly become one of his brewery’s more popular offerings, much to Carton’s delight and chagrin.
Coffee and beer are a lot like beverage bookends. One is typically consumed in the morning and one at night, and on certain days or occasions the two can be flipped. For longtime drinkers of stouts and porters, the taste of coffee is apparent in the brew, even if no beans were used. Thanks to roasted grains, the longer the kiln, the more likely a beer will take on notes of coffee.
Coffee and beer are not dissimilar. Both require roasting, be it beans or grain. They offer effects after drinking, due to caffeine or alcohol. Both are widely consumed, have passionate followings—even have their own geek communities. And at first blush, while it might not seem the two have a lot in common flavorwise, they share many taste similarities.
Beer and coffee are each aroma-driven, and each is a regular part of many people’s daily lives.
While it’s traditionally considered a morning drink—cream and sugar optional—coffee is regularly finding its way into beers, thanks in part to the ingenuity of today’s brewers, their relationship with local roasters and increasing customer demand.