Photo by Chris Casella

Hopped Up

Beer and coffee are the good cop/bad cop of the imbibing world, and the two have been tag-teaming us for decades. Beer puts on a show, threatening a hangover with no parole and striking fear into the hearts of the most hardened drinkers. Coffee assures us the next morning that it can help us get out of this mess we’ve found ourselves in as long as we confess to what we’ve done.

In recent years, the two have strengthened their working relationship, with coffee finding its way into stouts, porters, and even the occasional IPA. Founder’s Breakfast Stout, brewed about 300 miles north of Columbus, has earned itself a perfect 100 from both BeerAdvocate and RateBeer. Locally, North High Brewing teamed up with Thunderkiss Coffee to produce their Thunderkissed Milk Stout, a diabolically delicious creation I drank too much of with a guy I no longer speak to (correlation does not equal causation).

What is not so commonly found is beer making its way into coffee, but these buddy cops have teamed up again in a unique offering from Crimson Cup. Please welcome “nitrogen-infused hopped cold brew” to your lexicon. I understand if you have to practice saying it a few times.

“Essentially what we are producing is a cold-brewed coffee that has been cut with water to reduce the caffeine content and enhance the flavor,” said Brandon Bir, coffee education and sourcing director with Crimson Cup. “The Guatemalan coffee lends cocoa and lemon notes that pair really well with the hops we chose. The coffee is decanted and placed into kegs for dry-hopping, which takes several days. We use an Oregon whole hop. We then pressurize the kegs with nitrogen, prime them let them sit for a few hours so the nitro can interact with the liquid, and push the product out into an imperial stout glass.”

After watching cold brew poured from a tap into a tulip glass at the Clintonville coffee house, you would be forgiven for thinking it was Guinness. The color is dead on, the signature head is present, and the bubbles travel in the same counterintuitive direction. There are citrus and resin aromas from the hops (or are those the previously mentioned lemon notes in the coffee?)

The mouthfeel is soft and lush, thanks to the tiny nitrogen bubbles and the cold brew process. Flavors of apple, tobacco, and chocolate are found in abundance. The hops begin to appear in the finish and linger for quite some time. They lend a bitter flavor that, while familiar to coffee drinkers, is unmistakably hoppy. This drink is tough to categorize: it hits the right familiar and comforting attributes of both coffee and beer, while maintaining its own original identity. If coffee and beer are a dynamic cop duo, this is the super-robo-cop that just joined the force.