See a coffee beer on a local tap list, and there’s a pretty solid chance it’s going to be a dark, roasty stout or porter, a beer with an intense, percolating aroma and a flavor profile that could just as easily serve as a late night pick me up, or the best part of waking up. But, while those tasty, toasty brews definitely serve their purpose, they’re not exactly brewing up a revolution.
Enter Pinthouse Pizza and Houndstooth Coffee, two Austin establishments who’ve made a name for themselves not only for taking their craft seriously, but also for not shying away from innovation. The pair of businesses first came together last summer when they hosted a beer and coffee pairing event–three courses of Pinthouse Pizza’s mainstay brews paired with complementing cups o’ joe from Houndstooth. The pairing was capped off with a collaboration pilot beer created for the event–a black IPA brewed with an aromatic, floral Ethiopian washed coffee bean called YirgZ.
Now,the two businesses are embarking on a new exploratory collaboration brew–an Amber Kolsch brewed with UNO coffee beans from Finca El Diamante, Huehuetenango, Guatemala.
“It’s a true collaboration in that we’re trying to get somewhere different rather than just coming together,” Joe Mohrfeld, Head Brewer for Pinthouse Pizza said. “It’s a totally new recipe for us.”
Last Thursday, Mohrfeld, along with Assistant Brewer Jacob Passey and Houndstooth’s Head Coffee Coach Daniel Read, brewed a pilot batch of the base beer. From there, the current plan is to brew another pilot batch with the beans in March, before brewing on Pinthouse’s full system in April.
The beer is unique in that it will utilize both green and roasted coffee beans.
“From the coffee side, adding green beans first, and letting them steep and try to absorb flavors from the beer as the beer absorbs flavors from the coffee, that’s something that nobody in the coffee world has ever done before, at least to my knowledge,” Read said. “So I’m excited about that…Once we roast it we’ll tease out some of the coffee aspects, [then add the roasted beans back into the beer] and hopefully a combination of the two will pair well with this beer.”
Both Read and Mohrfeld agree that they’d like the coffee to be more of an ingredient in the beer rather than the ingredient in the beer.
“I want the beer to influence the flavor of the coffee, and I want the coffee to influence the flavor of the beer,” Read said. “That’s what I’m really looking for in terms of adding this green coffee to the beer, because I think that they’re such different flavors, that maybe if they had something in common it’s going to make it better, but maybe it won’t, maybe we come out of this thing on the other side thinking this was an epic fail, but that’s okay too.”
Luckily, they have a few opportunities to figure it out.
“It’s great to have a pilot system to play around on and see what things are going to look like before we commit to it,” Mohrfeld said. “And, if we get down to it and realize it’s not going to work at all, and we missed it completely, we’ll do another pilot batch and start over. That’s what’s really exciting to me about this project. We don’t know where it’s going to end up.”
The first pilot batch of the amber kolsch the group brewed last week used Willamette and Mt. Hood hops and Pale Moon Malt from Texas’s first malt house, Blacklands Malt. Mohrfeld is using the pilot batch as a means to test the base beer recipe and to assess how much bitterness is coming off the hops, as he’d like the bulk of the (restrained) perceived bitterness to come from the coffee.
When Thursday’s pilot brew day ended around 4 p.m., Mohrfeld and Read knew that their experimental brew was temporarily out of their hands.
“Well, it’s just up to the yeast now,” Mohrfeld said.
Once they nail down the recipe and brew it on Pinthouse’s full system with the coffee, the beer will be available as an Exploration Series release at Pinthouse Pizza later this spring.
We’ll continue to follow the beer’s journey along the way.