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Coffee beer: it’s a no-brainer. Some of your favorite porters and stouts are probably brewed with coffee. At the very least their tasting notes will mention it; a lot of the roasted malt flavor jives with the undertones of a rich cup of coffee. The Drew Carey Show even had a plot line about it.

Having identified the overlap in drinkers who appreciate both quality coffee and microbrewery offerings, brewers have  been teaming up more and more often with specialty coffee roasters in past years: Intelligentsia and Goose Island, Stumptown and Sixpoint, Coney Island Brewing and Café Grumpy, and recently Blue Bottle and Brooklyn Brewery—just to name a few.

But what if a craft brewery only made coffee beer? Could it possibly capture the hearts of the craft beer and specialty coffee communities?

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Beanery Brewing thinks it can.

Beanery Brewing casually brought together a team who individually have solid pedigrees in their fields, like a supergroup disguised as a garage band. The seeds were planted back in 2006, back when Dave Brodrick moved his bar, the beloved Blind Tiger Ale House, to Bleeker Street in Manhattan. Liquor license roadblocks led to an impromptu coffee program, helmed by Ian Campbell who cut his teeth in coffee at the now closed Hope & Union in Brooklyn. When Brodrick retired to Vermont, he took Campbell, then Blind Tiger’s manager, with him. In the Green Mountain State, they teamed up with Jason Merrill and Kurt Lessard to launch the successful Worthy Burger in 2012 and Worthy Kitchen in 2013.

Then in 2014, David Yarrington—Smuttynose brewmaster—had some brewing space in the newly ordained Smuttlabs. Yarrington had built a relationship over the years with Brodrick and knew that he was itching to start a beer company of his own. The five of them, along with the Blind Tiger’s Luke Manson in New York, are all partners in the Beanery venture.

The group’s love of coffee—good coffee—made the choice to focus on a combination of their two passions a logical one. They figured that rather than mixing in coffee, the beer itself could serve as the solvent to bring out the most interesting flavors of the coffee beans. They spent time figuring out the best way to integrate the two, and then brought in certified Q Grader Claudia Barrett of Flight Coffee Company in Portsmouth, New Hampshire (whom the Beanery team describes as their “Coffee Jedi”). She helps identify the right coffee bean for the target flavor profile, and supplies the roasted coffee for brewing.

beanery brewing company woodstock vermont worthy kitchen coffee beer sprudge

The integration of a Third Wave roaster means you won’t be drinking a beer that belies anonymously-sourced, over-roasted beans. But it’s not just the choice of bean and roast profile that makes a difference; a lot of work went into figuring out the best way to bring the coffee profiles to work in tandem with the beer. Tossing roasted beans wantonly in with the mash can result in the over-extraction of the coffee, leaving the beer taking on that unwanted bitterness. Where some brewers are circumventing this by mixing cold brew in with the brewed beer, Beanery’s trade secret recipe, Campbell and Brodrick explained, is not just a mix of coffee and beer; it involves brewing the coffee with the beer and includes dry-hopping the beer with whole beans.

Closely following the IPA, the second of Beanery’s releases is an Ethiopian coffee milk stout using organic Sidamo Amaro Gayo beans from Asnakech Thomas, a notable miller and exporter who is currently the only woman in her to export coffee from the country. The team expects to continually produce these as tentpole beers, though they may need to change depending on the availability of the coffee. They’ll try to keep it as consistent as possible, though Brodrick points out, “you have to be flexible when it comes to agricultural products and the farms that process them.” He added, “We’ll always make sure the bean and the beer complement each other, either in harmony or by contrast.” Their first production beer wasn’t just a coffee IPA—it was a Costa Rican coffee IPA, with Typica and Caturra beans via Macho Arce’s farm via the Helsar de Zarcero micromill. And that first coffee beer was just the beginning.
beanery brewing company woodstock vermont worthy kitchen coffee beer sprudge
Those certainly won’t be the only beers they’re brewing. Next up for fall is a pale ale with shaved oatmeal and lactose sugar. And they hope to start bottling soon. For now, the company’s distribution is limited to select craft beer spots in Vermont and New York City. As a contract brewer, there’s no tap room to speak of—your best bet is to seek it out at related venues like Worthy Burger and Worthy Kitchen in Vermont, and Blind Tiger in NYC.

Beanery Brewing cares about coffee, and they’re on the forefront of bringing conscientious coffee production into the beer brewing world. For two industries that already see so much overlap, it’s frankly about time we’re seeing a broader marriage of specialty coffee and craft beer. And the future of this union tastes delicious.

Find out where Beanery’s coffee-beer kegs are being tapped now via the brewer’s Twitter feed.

D. Robert Wolcheck is a Sprudge contributor based in New York City. Read more D. Robert Wolcheck on Sprudge

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