It’s been awhile since we spilled ink to dive deep into a beer and how we make it. With the release of Most Important Beverage of the Day this weekend, it’s time.
The base beer is a milk stout brewed with a mellow, sweet, slightly toasty Scottish malt as the base along with English roasted barley, two types of chocolate malt, and dark crystal malt. A high rate of lactose leads to a high finishing gravity, full body, and velvety mouthfeel. Mild additions of Centennial hops provide a foundation of orange flavor within the darker malt-derived complexity. The result is a roasty, chocolatey, nearly smoky base that fully coats the palate and lingers with the distinctive sweetness of chocolate-covered malt balls.
To this base, we add two different roasts of Ljulu Lipati – Zambia from Intelligentsia Coffee. This particular coffee is bright, tangy, and catty, almost like Simcoe hops, with an underlying unrefined sugar sweetness. The standard roast of Ljulu Lipati comprises 80% of the coffee brewed for this beer, the remainder being a darker roast of the same bean to develop caramel and molasses notes that harmonize with the malt flavors in the base beer. The coffee is cold brewed to maximize flavor concentration and blended into the beer at a rate of twelve parts beer to one part cold brew. In the form of cold brew concentrate, Ljulu Lipati has a noticeable acidity and minerality that feels like bridging a weak nine-volt battery on your tongue. Intelligentsia’s coffee beer swami Jay Cunningham selected this coffee and brewed 45 gallons of cold brew to make this happen, four gallons at a time. Thanks Jay! The effect of the coffee on the beer might be counterintuitive: it brightens everything. This isn’t surprising if you understand the long-lasting direct trade relationships Intelligentsia pioneered and maintains throughout the coffee-growing world, their buyers’ ability to visit farms for lot selection, their preference for certain coffee qualities, and the resulting coffees that often present bright, fruity, even floral qualities that are expressed through precise, restrained roasting. As a result of the coffee, the smokiness of the base beer mellows, and the chocolate flavors get something like a low-voltage salted caramel filling.
Finally, we add sweet orange peel to the beer during hot and cold points in the process: first, directly in the whirlpool, while the wort is still hot after the boil, then by extracting orange peel flavor in a hot tea and adding that to the beer after fermentation and cold crashing. The purpose of the different additions is to layer flavors by developing some of the orange peel deeper into the beer and allowing some to ride bright and ripe over the top. The result is an orange quality that presents in the aroma, mid-palate, and finish. It hangs in balance with the chocolate flavors and coffee acidity to complete a complex beer that evolves on the palate and spans dark, roasty depths and fruity, tangy highs.
If you’re wondering how this compares to the original release of Most Important Beverage of the Day in 2014, it’s pretty spot on. This year, your only chance to get your hands on it is at the Solemn Oath taproom. We split off half the batch to age in bourbon barrels, from which it will emerge as Beverage of Champions, while the rest is in bombers for individual sale (no limit) and in kegs for draft (no growlers). Your first chance is this Sunday at noon, unless you’re an Old Order member, in which case you’re already planning on you-kn0w-what-and-when.
As they roll through, we will give you a preview of what to expect in the way of beer releases. In no way are we saying we’ll actually meet your expectations–just set them. If this sounds good to you, you should probably reevaluate every important relationship in your life. Like, now.
All the photos except the header and final bottle image were shot by Andrew Klass of Intelligentsia. It’s awesome to work with great people.