Coffee stout is a relatively common beer style that has been around for as long as beer lovers have sought to integrate their favorite beverage into their morning routine. The match makes sense: Stouts and coffee often share a similar flavor profile: dark, roasted, chocolate notes.
But modern brewers are the creative and adventurous types who will add coffee almost anything, even beers with flavor profiles that may seem less likely to mesh – cream ales, pale ales, even lagers and pilsners – with occasionally brilliant results: New York’s Peekskill Brewery nails a coffee pale ale with their surprisingly delightful Wakeup Call; New Jersey’s Carton Brewing makes an Irish Coffee Imperial Cream Ale that tastes more like an Irish coffee than some Irish coffees I’ve had.
And while Rogue Ales new Cold Brew IPA is certainly not the first coffee IPA, the beer still stands out from the (growing) crowd in a number of ways. First, more than just a “coffee beer,” this is a “cold brew beer”: the coffee is cold brewed separately from the IPA and then the two are blended together. Second, this isn’t just any cold brew: It’s Stumptown – the legendary Portland third-wave roaster known for selling some of the country’s best cold-brewed coffee. It’s two of Oregon’s biggest names coming together in a big way. Rogue even pulled three of the beer’s four hop varieties – Liberty, Rebel and Freedom – from its own Oregon farm. But as with new beer experiment, the real question is: How does it taste?
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The beer glows a beautiful mahogany, a tad darker than most IPAs. On the pour, the nose begins as all IPA – green, earthy hoppiness with a slight touch of sweet fruit – before quickly giving way to what initially seems like the kind of roasted, nutty scent you might expect from a more malt-forward IPA. However, as the beer settles, those roasted notes and even some of the hop sweetness reveal itself more distinctly as, yes, coffee.
The taste follows the aroma, with the light citrus acidity of the hops tickling the side of your tongue before the rest of your palate is overtaken by the roasted darkness of cold brew. It all resolves in a finish that feels like equal parts hop and coffee bitterness. Neither side of the beer was quite as assertive as I expected it to be: For such a big concept, the brew is more of a polite date than a lusty affair.
Unexpectedly, what makes Rogue Cold Brew IPA notable is its restraint. Everything about this beer – including the 7.5 percent ABV – screams “this will be big!”, and yet the beer delivers more on balance and subtly. Frankly, as a lover of IPAs and cold brew, you’d be hard-pressed to convince me that this blend is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not IPA enough to become your new favorite IPA or cold brew enough to replace your morning cup of coffee. Still, it’s a fine and drinkable beer nonetheless and a reminder that though a volatile marriage may be more exciting, a loving one is a worthier goal.