Last week I tried the delightful Kona Coffee Stout and quite enjoyed it, but afterwards I got to thinking: is there an opportunity to attain some sort of coffee/beer gestalt? A beverage more than the sum of its parts?
Pitchers of lager only held appeal for me during my college years due to their price. Most of my adult beer drinking has been firmly in the craft camp, and most of that in the past ten to fifteen years. I love trying different beers, and often the weirder the better, as I certainly wouldn't consider myself an iconoclast or anything, but I am definitely no purist. In fact, other beer geeks might even consider me heretical.
Like any other type of alcoholic beverage, beer's permutations can include combinations: for every wine varietal, there is somebody drinking a spritzer; for every single malt aficionado there is someone (like me!) ordering a Rusty Nail. Now billboards encourage us to (Smirnoff) 'Ice' our beer (which, to be fair, might be a good enough idea, depending on what you are drinking) and there are any number of beer cocktails to peruse. But what about combining two beers with complementary characteristics?
The Kona Imperial Stout immediately scratched both my beer and coffee itches, but I immediately starting thinking about my favourite way to drink coffee, which is a latté. Another of my favourite stouts is the Imperial Milk Stout from La Vache Folle in Quebec, which contains actual lactose, so I began to wonder: if I mixed these two beers, could I make a Latté Stout?
Well, since Kona is not espresso, perhaps it might be more apt to call it a café au lait stout, but once I mentioned it to Jim, his enthusiastic encouragement was enough to set me on the path, and when I found myself driving past Sherbrooke Liquor after picking Fenya up from her diploma exam, I was moved to action.
Given the unprecedented nature of this combination, I deployed my Dartington Tankard for the task. Filling it about halfway up with the coffee stout, then vigorously adding the milk stout. I didn't get as much head as I would have liked - after all, what's a latté without foam? - but was left with a uniformly dark pint with a small but not unreasonable amount of foam around the top.
The initial sips tended to favour the sweetness and alcohol content of the milk stout, but it is possible there was some layering at play; I didn't have the nerve to stir or fully mix the two beers. As the beer warmed, however, the aftertaste tended to equitably balance out elements of both the bitter coffee of the Kona as well as the creamy smoothness of the milk stout. The sweetness of the higher ABV milk stout added a not unpleasant dessert-like quality to the affair, also appropriate to the latté theme.
All in all, I would consider the blending a success, with one small caveat; there is enough caffeine in the Kona to make it an unwise choice (at least for me!) after 5:00, so I am left with a fairly high test beverage that must be imbibed in the afternoon (or, on very special occasions, breakfast), which means having all driving-related chores out of the way beforehand! Ah, well, there are far worse problems one could have.