It’s time for a little coffee talk. Boulevard Brewing Company’s Imperial Stout X: Coffee Ale (11% ABV) hits shelves Tuesday. It’s a limited release featuring The Roasterie’s Ethiopian Sidamo coffee — the first in a series of four brews that will use Boulevard’s Imperial Stout as a base this year.
“With this Imperial Stout category X, it’s wide open for us to go in whatever direction we want to go,” Boulevard brewer Dustin Jamison says. “We can age the beer in rum barrels [the next version of Imperial Stout X is the rum barrel-aged brew slated for release in June] or add Brett[anomyces yeast]. It can be a lot of fun.”
In this case, they experimented with a variety of coffee beans (dark roasts proved to be too acrid), before Boulevard opted to use The Roasterie’s Sidamo — the same coffee previously featured in the Coffee Ale collaboration with the Kansas City roaster. After fermenting, the beer is moved to a tank fitted with bags of coarsely ground coffee. The process essentially swaps in beer for cold water for a cold extraction (otherwise known as the toddy method).
“After 24 hours, we start tasting it over and over until we get that extraction point that we’re really looking for,” Jamison says. “Usually around 36 hours, we’re getting somewhere.”
The bottle conditioning mutes some of the flavors present in the fresh beer, meaning that Jamison and the tasting panel had to decide, to some degree, whether to focus on accentuating coffee in the nose or the body.
“I really like that smell of getting your nose in a cup of coffee rather than that bitterness of when a cup of coffee coats your tongue,” Jamison says of the brew’s distinctive aroma.
Boulevard provided The Recommended Daily with a bottle pre-release. You get that nice scent of a freshly poured cup of coffee, but the start of the brew is more mellow. You then get some of the caramel sweetness of the Imperial Stout in the middle before a roast-y, drier finish.
“It will be really interesting and really fun to see how far we can take this,” Jamison says. “It will be a nice learning process and hopefully everybody enjoys what we’re using to learn with.”