This story first ran on KCPT’s Flatland.* A pair of Kansas City brews will be packing a bit more punch this holiday season thanks to a duo of collaborations between local coffee shops and breweries. The Martin City Brewing Company and Second Best Coffee have teamed up on a coffee stout that’s available in MCBC’s tap room right now, and last week was the first bottling run for Boulevard Brewing Company’s Early Riser — a coffee porter made in conjunction with Maps Coffee Roasters — set to be released in January.
Coffee has proven to be fertile inspiration ground for local breweries. Martin City teamed up with Benetti’s Coffee Experience in Raytown on a coffee stout last year and Boulevard has produced Coffee Ale and Imperial Stout X: Coffee with The Roasterie in years past. Torn Label Brewing Company uses Thou Mayest coffee for its Café Dubbel and Double Shift Brewing Company unveiled a golden coffee stout at Pirate’s Bone Coffee last month. Dutchman Coffee Roasters even had a tap of cold brew at the Cinder Block Brewery in North Kansas City. But the new Second Best collaboration with Martin City is the first to feature coffee that was stored in beer kegs long before it was ever an ingredient in beer.
“That is the Nitro,” said Anderson, co-owner of Second Best, falling silent and taking a minute to watch the undulations, along with the rest of the folks perched on stools on a recent Tuesday.A few moments after Nathan Anderson sits down at the counter that faces the parking lot in front of Waldo’s Second Best Coffee, a pint glass is set in front of a customer a few stools to his left. A light-brown cascade falls like taffeta ruffles on a wedding dress, slowly revealing the inky black coffee brew beneath.
The Nitro is a nitrogenated cold brew coffee that Second Best has had on tap behind the bar since this spring. The kegged brew is made with coffee beans from Chiapas in Mexico, which Anderson picked for their slightly nutty character. The beans are coarsely ground before being shocked with hot water. The grounds are then cooled with cold water before steeping for 12 hours. The coffee is then filtered and pumped into kegs. The nitrogen gives the coffee a creamy mouth feel when poured.
When Martin City approached Anderson about making a coffee stout, he immediately thought of the Nitro.
“The Nitro coffee has low acidity and a nice nutty character. The beer has nice layers and more complexity than I imagined,” said Anderson. “I’d have one sip that finished with stout and then the next sip would have coffee. It was like it was swirling around in there.”
Anderson delivered both cold and hot brewed coffee in kegs to Martin City to create the coffee stout.
“The cold brew coffee added a lot of flavor, but not a lot of aroma. We needed to finish it with hot brewed coffee to get that aroma up front,” said Anderson. “Adding the hot and cold coffee allowed different elements of the coffee to come out at different points of drinking the beer.”
The Second Best Coffee Stout is on tap and in bottles at the Martin City Brewing Company’s taproom and should start going out for delivery next week. A few miles north in Boulevard’s tasting room, there’s a test version of another new coffee brew: Early Riser.
“This is about as old school craft beer as you can get,” said Boulevard brewer Dustin Jamison. “”It’s nice and super drinkable.”
“It’s a little more coffee forward. The beer is just the canvas for the coffee to come out on,” said Jamison. Early Riser began with a base beer with the same malt bill (base ingredients) as Boulevard’s Bully Porter. For Early Riser, the brewery toned down the hops and the final beer has a slightly lower alcohol by volume, 5.2% as opposed to Bully Porter’s 5.8%.
Representatives from the brewery and Vincent Rodriguez, owner of Maps Coffee Roasters in Lenexa, Kansas, sat down for a cupping session to pick the right coffee to blend with the porter. They tabbed a Cauca Cajibio Estate brew from Colombia, which has a big body, chocolate, toffee, and golden raisin notes.
“The roast is light, but the coffee is pronounced in the beer,” said Rodriguez. “We really wanted for this to be a familiar coffee flavor. I get excited when I look at the reviews on Untappd [a beer rating mobile app] because everyone says it tastes just like iced coffee.”
Rodriguez then roasted and ground 2,400 pounds of coffee. That coffee was then bagged and hung in the tanks at the brewery. After the beer has fermented, the coffee grounds then steep in bags in the beer (like a giant French press without the plunger). And just like your morning cup, this one will certainly cause drinkers in Kansas City to perk up a bit.
“You’ve got that good strong coffee aroma in the nose and the coffee continues throughout,” said Jamison.
“When someone is pouring the beer, you can smell the coffee across the bar.”
*KCPT’s Hale Center for Journalism serves as a center for local multimedia journalism and collaboration with PBS, NPR and regional news sources. The Center houses Flatland, an open-source, digital forum producing stories and conversations about things that matter in Kansas City.[Early Riser image via Boulevard]