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  • Writer's picturePaige Latham Didora

buzz and buzz head to head, part two

This is the second match up in the coffee beer taste-off. First see part one: Southern Tier vs. Tyranena.

How coffee is added to beer greatly influences flavor. Some types of dark malt possess coffee flavors, depending on their degree of roast. Roasting malt for beer is actually very similar to roasting coffee beans, and the resulting flavors are described as toasty, caramelized, or even burnt. But most beers that are labeled as coffee brews have actual coffee in the final product, making me consider how the beverages become integrated.

Rogue Bent Paddle coffee

Most coffee beers have some form of cold press coffee added to the beer in the latter stages of brewing. But some use actual beans in the mash, while others use a combination of various techniques.

Consider the following methods. John Holl’s account of Carton Brewing uncovered their use of very strong coffee, specifically a ratio of a half-gallon of twice-brewed coffee to 20 gallons of beer. Minnesota’s own Surly brewing essentially makes cold press using beer, adding the beans to the bright tanks. In the Sisyphus taproom, the coffee is actually added to the black ale at the time of service – doesn’t get fresher than that!

Most brewers, however, steep the beans in cold water for up to two days and add that liquid to the beer.

No matter the technique, it is only natural that the two ubiquitous beverages have become entwined. As Holl points out, “Beer and coffee are each aroma-driven, and each is a regular part of many people’s daily lives.”

taste coffee BP Rogue

This bracket features a giant brewery with the force of a rolling boulder for most drinkers: Oregon’s Rogue Brewing, standing up against the little (but rapidly growing) guy: Duluth’s Bent Paddle.

The two beers both boast the use of coffee, but only the Bent Paddle Cold Press Black indicates the method. Varying accounts of the use of actual coffee in the beer cause me to question whether Rogue uses any beans in the process. Kiln coffee malts are used, according to the website.

Mocha Porter has a strong chocolate and mild coffee aroma along with burnt sugar notes. The taste is quite roasty and robust and the beer is full and broad on the tongue. Spot-on carbonation and pleasant malt complexity. I enjoy the morph from a sweet beginning to a medium-dry finish with moderate astringency. However, the coffee component is almost entirely absent.


On the other hand, the coffee in the cold press black cannot be ignored. Pouring the beer into a sampling glass resulted in expletives of joy. This beer has a thicker, creamier head that is khaki in color. A strong cafe latte aroma dominates.

head to head coffee 2

Bent Paddle takes this round! Tune in for the next round, and let me know what coffee beers impress you the most!


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