Mash, Grind, Blend, Taste, Repeat
We’ve made a coffee beer with Portola Coffee Lab before. Those of you in our Hoarders Society may recall our most recent beer using Porotla’s beans: Mélange 8 is our blend of our bourbon barrel aged wheatwine (White Oak Sap), our bourbon barrel aged anniversary ale and Don Pachi Estate Geisha coffee beans, literally the most expensive beans in the world. This time, Jeff and Patrick came together to try some blends using a couple different kinds of roasts that don’t have a $111 per pound price tag but we still think are downright delicious.
Finding the right level of coffee to blend with our beer pretty much replicated the process of making a cup or coffee or tea, except there was a 12.5% beverage involved.
Much like our blending of Beer Belly’s FUBRue anniversary pilot batch, we measure a couple different ratios out of the ingredients we’re dealing with, taste the result, then tweak the amounts until we’ve found the “sweet” spot, or more accurately in this case, the “intense coffee aroma with flavors of raspberry jam, tart pineapple and maple brown sugar” spot.
For our blend of Mash & Grind, we initially set out to find a level of coffee addition to compliment the barleywine base, appropriately named “Mash”. Since this beer is a heavier one, weighing in at 12.5% ABV, it took a good amount of coffee to stand up to it. We tried a range of blends starting with a lower rate of one pound of coffee to 20 gallons of beer, up to one pound of coffee to 10 gallons of beer.
Instead of mixing the beer with an already brewed coffee, Jeff used an aeropress to push the grinds through the beer, much like making an aeropress cup of coffee but where you’d normally use water, we used barleywine. Before deciding on the ratio we were happy with, we tried a couple different kinds of beans to see which ones had flavors that popped or mellowed when blended with Mash. “It’s kind of like jewelry shopping,” Patrick caught himself saying at one point. “How does this coffee sparkle?” And then we all laughed at him.
We finally settled on Portola Coffee Lab’s Lucio Delgado from Columbia. At some point, we were having trouble deciding on which ratio of coffee to beer we liked best — how can you chose when all the options are too delicious? So we thought, “Why not let our fans find the level of coffee they want in their blend?” Hence, Mash & Grind and Mash were born.
Mash is an English-style barleywine aged in bourbon barrels. This is an intense yet balanced beer with notes of burnt caramel, toasted bread, ripe pear, dried figs, vanilla, toasted coconut and finishes with oak tannin. This has become an instant favorite around the brewery due to its balance, subtle complexities and overwhelming deliciousness. Mash is a Reserve Society exclusive weighing in at 12.5% ABV, cellerable for up to two years.
Mash & Grind is Mash with the addition of Portola Coffee Lab’s Lucio Delgado (Columbia) at a rate of 1 lbs. per 10 gallons. This has contributed an intense coffee aroma and some additional body, with flavors of raspberry jam, tart pineapple and maple brown sugar. Mash & Grind is certainly delicious on its own, but we deliberately sought a strong coffee aroma and flavor so you could try your own blending, if you like. Try adding “Mash & Grind” to “Mash” (or the other way around) until you find your ideal blend. Of course opening two bottles of high ABV beer is recommended when among friends. Mash & Grind is a Reserve Society exclusive weighing in at 12.5% ABV and is best enjoyed fresh.