Sometimes you take a notepad because you suspect something interesting might happen, sometimes you save a bottle of beer because you know you want to write about it and then other times you’re taken by surprise and you’re forced to pick up that pen and paper because something’s happened that everybody must hear about!
Routine Sunday afternoon, probably won’t be drinking again now until next weekend, might as well have one more beer, golf is on TV – boring, Kernel Coffee IPA Batch 2 is in the fridge, let’s go for that.
“It pours a copper-flame”, blah, blah, blah; the head is a colour that I don’t care about. A swirl, a sniff, a sip, boom! Wake up call, reach for that pen and paper, this is seriously good. Like, put-down-what-you’re-doing, turn-that-shit-golf-off, full-undivided-attention, good.
The aroma is dominated by coffee. Not freshly brewed coffee or ground coffee beans; it’s like the smell you get when you come back to your cold cafetiere to wash it up. When you tip those used grounds out into the bin and the smell hits you, it’s like that. There’s also chocolate, milk chocolate, lots of milk chocolate, then in the back there’s a sweet, ripe, tropical, fruit character coming from the hops. The coffee is doing enough masking to allow those specific fruits to hide but it reminds me of the smell you get when a fruit bowl has started to turn – that really ripe, fruity aroma you get.
When you drink it you’re immediately struck by how thick, velvety and creamy it is. The hops come forward a bit more and seem tropical, lots of mango in particular. The coffee is still the protagonist, bringing roasty, coffee and milk chocolate notes, it’s like a Solero with chocolate-coffee sauce all over it.
When I drank the first batch of this beer I was amazed at how two-faced it was. It was almost like the hops and the coffee had a fight and moved to opposing ends of the mouthful. This time it’s remarkable for the opposite reason, everything is so well integrated, harmonious and balanced. Those hops and that coffee must’ve settled their differences because, in this beer, they’re best mates.
If you’re lucky enough to find any of this around, buy it, buy as much of it as you can and drink it as quickly as you can.
And to finish, a question: Coffee and IPA sounds like a crazy combination, two things that shouldn’t really work together. But, is the coffee working in this beer like a dark malt would? Does this make the seemingly crazy actually quite logical? If you stained an IPA black with something like Carafa III and used a small amount of chocolate malt to add dark malt character, would you be a million miles off a coffee IPA? Would you be a million miles off a hoppy porter?