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Thursday, 21 July 2011

Kernel Coffee IPA Batch 2


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.

Sensational.


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?

19 comments:

Colin Stronge said...

I think of them as the anti-black IPA. The reverse of the colour/flavour shock that brings (i.e. looks but doesn't taste) this taste's but doesn't look stout-y. Plus the coffee bitterness works so well with the hops. Wanty!!

Mark said...

Yeah, that is a cool way to look at it. You're getting that dark malt character that works with the hops like it would in a hoppy porter or American brown ale, but you're getting it without any colour. Does kinda make it a reverse black IPA. Hopefully there will be a batch 3 because I think batch 2 is all gone now.

Ketsbaia said...

Glad you liked it. I helped brew that. The smell emptying the mash tun afterwards will stay with me forever. And I've got one bottle of it left. :D

Mark said...

Ketsbaia: Are you a Square Mile person or were you just helping out on the day? Will be interesting to see how the beer changes with time - would assume the hops will decrease and the coffee will show through even more.

Sid Boggle said...

I can help out on how the Batch 1 aged - I found a bottle and drank it last week. The coffee was just a suggestion in the nose and on the finish. The beer was full of fruit (I thought apricots), mouthfeel was full and smooth, the bitterness in the finish propped up by that hint of coffee. Magnificent - made me wish I'd kept a couple more...

Mark said...

Thanks for that Sid, sounds like it's still quite similar to when I had it. You need to try the second batch. Instead of being all hops with coffee on the finish, it's much more integrated. If you liked the first, I think you'll LOVE the second. :)

Ketsbaia said...

Mark - no, I was just helping out on the day. But what a day. I'm tempted to keep the remaining bottle and review it in my Beer Advent Calendar at Christmas, but I doubt it'll last that long just sat there staring at me. No idea what malts and hops they used in batch 1, but the main difference this time was the coffee. In batch 1, it was put in just after the boil in hessian sacks. Batch 2, we just poured it right on top of the hops!

Mark said...

A beer advent calender sounds awesome! Very interesting to hear the difference in how the coffee was added. I remember Evin saying that sacks were dipped into the kettle like giant tea bags for batch 1. So, for batch 2 did they go in on top of the hops after flame out in the kettle or were they added with dry hops into the fermenter?

Ketsbaia said...

After flame out in the kettle. Let it cool down after the boil so as not to singe the coffee. Then in it went, using the floating hops as a 'filter'. It was an amazing aroma. Almost like marzipan.

Beer advent calendar is here: http://beeradventcalendar.blogspot.com

Cheers,

Ben

Mark said...

Sounds good. I often taste marizpan or almonds in coffee too. Did you try any of the beans as coffee? Be interesting to see if that milk chocolate flavour I got came through in the coffee or if it's a product of being combined with the beer.

Ketsbaia said...

Yeah, we had the coffee earlier on in the day. Lovely stuff, but I don't remember the flavour of it enough to comment, really. Was too busy grinning like an idiot brewing beer. :D

Leigh said...

Still not tried this one - speaking of coffee, I tried Thornbridge's Evenlode Brown Porter last night, and the coffee aroma was sensational - you tried it yet? Not hoppy, obviously, but it was just like sticking your nose into an espresso. Awesome.

Mark said...

Nope, not tried that, not even heard of it if Im being honest. Are they using coffee in it or is all that flavour coming from malt?

Big in to coffee at the moment, love it!

CAMRGB said...

Hi.
Lovely blog.
After months of upploading beer pictures to facebook I've decided to write the occasional beer related blog too. I'm here: http://cfrgb.blogspot.com
Drop by and say hullo.
Crayola

Mark said...

Will do. Thanks for the positive feedback!

West End Brewer said...

I too have been saving this, so apologies for the delayed comment. Everyone is out, I'm on holiday and it seems like the perfect time. I read your post a long time ago so any overlap in comments is either from the back of my memory or consistent observations.

Aroma 12/12
Initial tropical fruits which give way to roast coffee notes. The coffee notes are more like freshly ground coffee bean aroma than actual coffee. The hop fuits and the coffee really blend together well

Appearance 2/3
Definitely still in within the bounds of an IPA on colour, amber hue. White head with good retention. Very cloudy (could be my fault)

Flavour 18/20
Wow! coffee then hops, then hops and coffee leading to hops! The coffee is far more bold than batch #1. In #1 you had to look for it, here it is at the same level as the hops. I get a sweet tropical hop flavour and a bitterness from the coffee at the same time. This is then followed by a really long lastering bitterness from the hops. Is there any malt profile? I'm not sure, its way below the hops and coffee if there is. I feel it falls in to the IPA style guidlines unlike a Black IPA. The coffee doesn't protrude from the hops it works with them well.

Mouth feel 5/5
Assertive carbonation which is perfect for style. Really good full body. No alcohol heat

Overall impression. 8/10
This is a fantastic beer. The coffee works with the hops in both aroma and flavour. This is far superior to the first batch where I felt you had an IPA in which if you were looking for it you could pick out the coffee in the background.

Dave

Mark said...

Dave: Now that's what I call a comment!

I really like the first batch, so not sure I would say this one is superior. I like them both for different reasons but do agree that clearly the coffee is a lot bigger and a lot more integrated in this version. Also agree that it's not a brewed coffee taste, it's more like a ground coffee taste.

I can't help but think that that roasty, coffee, chocolate flavour is very similar to what some dark malt would be adding in a brown ale or black IPA.

West End Brewer said...

Mark,
in response to your last comment "flavour is very similar to what some dark malt would be adding in a brown ale or black IPA" I disagree. In all of the black IPA's I've had* there has been a jar between the fruity hops and the roast malt flavours, whilst all nice beers and good examples of the 'style' (avoiding the word balanced which is just stupid in this context!). The difference here I felt was that is was a rounded smooth roast flavour 'milk chocolate' as you eloquently described it, rather than the harsher more acidic roast malt flavours. I'm sure something similar could be made with roast malts, I've just yet to try it.

*Kernel BIPA, Thornbridge Raven, Bristol Beer Factory Indian Ink & Windsor & Eton Conqueror

Mark said...

I think I explained my point quite badly in the last comment - was just trying to suggest the concept that the coffee is almost working in place of the darker malts you'd get in a dark beer. Agree that it's more choc than roast and that that's probably why it works with the hops instead of being jarring against them.

Somebody should brew a hoppy brown American ale with the emphasis on chocolate flavours rather than roast. Maybe hopped with something like Centennial ...