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  • Writer's picturePaige Latham Didora

buzz and buzz head to head, part three

[please pardon the appearance of ABV as some necessary upgrades are in progress!]

Never mix uppers and downers, you’ve been told since your days as a doe-eyed freshman in the marching band. My college years were decidedly boring – and productive -with the caffeine far outweighing any alcohol, but I still consider that sage advice every time I see someone order a Bailey’s and coffee.


Big Central barista competition, actually embraces the idea of coffee in beer, and hosts a regular event called Uppers and Downers. They are one of many coffee roasting companies to partner with a brewery. In Minnesota, Duluth Coffee Roasters sends beans to Bent Paddle, Dunn Brothers to Flat Earth, and Coffee & Tea Ltd. to Surly.

The rise of these partnerships is significant, and has had an impact on both industries. Consider Fulton’s War and Peace, for which Peace Coffee not only earns based on the beans required for the brew, but garners their logo on the back of the bottle – and it’s not tiny.

coffee beers

“In 2004, the World Beer Cup — the Olympics of beer competitions — added a coffee category. There were nine entries that year, and it has grown every year since — to 109 at this year’s competition.” – Boston Globe

surly lakefront coffee

One little pioneering coffee beer can be found in a can here in the Twin cities. The Surly Coffee Bender goes head-to-head with Lakefront’s Fuel Cafe in this match. Coffee Bender is hard to pair for tasting because it is a fairly unusual beer. Rather than being a stout or porter, this one is a brown ale with different characteristics than any other coffee beers readily available. Aside from a seasonal or two (I’m looking at you, Indeed Burr Grinder), there are not many light to medium bodied beers that utilize coffee.

fuel cafe surly bender

The Fuel cafe is a lovely stout with appropriate body and very pleasing vanilla-chocolate aroma. The head is a fluffy and lasting khaki color which is quite inviting. Sadly, though, the coffee is merely an aftertaste rather than the star of the show. I would drink this beer – it is a fine example of stout, and you could talk me into thinking vanilla was added. But as a coffee beer? No thanks.


tank coffee bender

Simcoe Coffee bender

Surly Coffee Bender takes the cake in this round, although I can see myself reaching for a Fuel Cafe on chilly nights. Follow along in the weeks to come for more buzz and buzz.

#Cats #Coffee #craftbeer #stimulant #Surly #Minnesota #coffeebeer #Wisconsin #FuelCafe #beer #Lakefront #tasting #competition #darkbeer

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