The importance of freshness in lighter and hoppy styles of beers is well known, but there is one category that is horribly overlooked: coffee beers. Anyone who drinks coffee can tell you that coffee beans are best when fresh, usually within a few days after being roasted. When coffee is made it quickly goes stale if not drank immediately. Why do people assume that the coffee in their beer is going to last forever?
While coffee beer obviously lasts longer than a pot of coffee, the flavor and aroma does fade rapidly. Since coffee is most often paired with a porter or stout, people are used to being able to save these beers for a rainy day. For instance, let’s take a look at Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout. At 13% ABV many people just assume this beer is a candidate for aging. The regular Bourbon County Brand Stout with a couple of years of cellar age is magnificent. The coffee version used wonderful Black Cat Espresso from Intelligentsia, one of the finest espressos available. But every week this beer sits in the bottle the espresso fades away.
Having been released over six months ago, what was once an amazing intense espresso character has faded to only a hint of its former self. The end product now only tastes slightly different than the original beer instead of the high octane espresso explosion it once was.
To put it bluntly, this beer was amazing, but now the espresso is ruined. Congratulations if you are cellaring this beer. You have wasted what was a masterpiece of espresso and barrel aged imperial stout. Drink promptly before any more injustice is done. It is awful to think that a huge amount of these beers were not drank fresh.
Respect coffee. Refrigerate coffee beers and drink them promptly. If you will excuse me, I have a growler of AleSmith Speedway Stout fresh from the brewery to attend to.