Beer and Coffee: The Best of Both Worlds, with Prairie Artisan Ales – Part 2

Amongst all the great beers I mentioned in Part 1 of this post, there is one additional beer that resonates with me the most – Bomb! by Prairie Artisan Ales out of Tulsa, Oklahoma ...

Bomb! is a 13% ABV, Imperial stout aged on espresso beans from Nordaggios, located near Prairie, and is further aged on chocolate, vanilla beans, and ancho chile peppers.  Yes, it’s as great as it sounds. I connected with the team at Prairie Artisan Ales to understand a bit more about Bomb!, and their general philosophy on pairing a beer with a coffee.  Below are excerpts from the interview.

LYC:       What considerations go into selecting a coffee to brew with a stout?  What coffee qualities, such as taste, acidity, body, origins & roast levels, do you look for? Are there any qualities you avoid? 

Prairie:   The biggest consideration for us is the final taste and vision for the beer.  If the coffee is one of several other flavors we plan to add, then we choose a coffee that will complement the final product.  If coffee is the star of the show, then we generally look for low roast levels and interesting flavors.  Our stouts are generally on the sweeter side, with less dryness and less roast, so we look for coffee that pairs well with that.  Origin only comes in to play with us if we are pairing the coffee with another adjunct where the location is part of the theme.  For instance, we may get cacao nibs from Ecuador, and then want to pair that with a coffee from Ecuador. 

LYC: Do you use coffee from local coffee roasters? 

Prairie:        We have used coffee from all over.  The local roasters are fun to work with because we get to sit down with them and taste the coffee together.  The conversation and creativity is better with local roasters.  However, we are open to great coffee, no matter the location of the roaster.  [LYC note: the coffee blend used for Bomb! is from Spaceship Earth Coffee Co, out of McAlester, OK, about 100 miles south of Tulsa.]

LYC:       How big of a pool of potential coffees/beans do you start with before nailing down the winner that makes it into the beer? 

Prairie:   It’s normally not more than 4 or 5.  We normally rely on the roaster to give us suggestions and samples based on the vision for the beer.  Then we narrow it down from there.  [We] think any more than that would bog down the process for us.

LYC:       How would your team describe the addition/complement that coffee brings to the flavor profile of a good stout?   

Prairie:        We think that coffee brings out the best parts of a stout.  The flavors go hand in hand.  The complexity of a stout is what makes it fun to brew.  There is such a huge range of flavors, mouthfeel, and aroma depending on how the beer is brewed.  Coffee is the same way.  So whether we are looking for complimentary flavors, accentuating flavors, or even opposing flavors, coffee is the most fun way to try to make something fun and interesting with that particular style. 

A special thanks to the brewing team at Prairie OKC for their time and interest in this article! 

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