Mixing the flavors of Austin for new beer
Thirsty Planet's latest takes idea of earthy coffee, smoky barbecue and brew and creates something unique
The latest collaboration beer from Thirsty Planet Brewing Company combines three culinary specialties to produce a single beer that defies definition.
I sat down with Jake Maddux of Thirsty Planet and Piper Jones from Kohana Coffee at Bar Lamar recently over a pint to get the story behind the brew.
What came to be known as the Jittery Monk started as Maddux's desire to create a smoked coffee for a Bats and Beers event (local craft beer enthusiasts and producers gather for food and drink). The notion of a smoked beer intrigued him, and taking inspiration from Franklin Barbecue's espresso sauce, he was also curious to find a way to introduce coffee into a beer.
After discussing the idea with local coffee roasters Kohana Coffee and Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue fame, the formula for a Belgian Dubbel made with Franklin smoked coffee beans began to take shape.
Jones said that the process wasn't as simple as picking out a kind of coffee bean, roasting it, smoking it and then developing the final cold brew coffee that would be mixed with the beer. She wanted to make sure that the flavor of the original bean would translate from the beginning of the process through the smoking and remain present in the final beer. "We narrowed it down to just two (kinds of beans) and did about 10-15 different time tests that we cupped before coming out with the final ratios," she said. "We smoked the roasted coffee from 2 minutes to 20 minutes to determine exactly the flavor profile we wanted."
From there, making the coffee component of the final beer using a cold brew method instead of a hot brew method was a natural choice, Jones and Maddux said. "Cold brewing basically means that you are steeping the ground coffee in room temperature (or colder) water for anywhere between 12 and 16 hours," Jones said. "The chemical process in the brew temperature is different than hot brewing, and mostly it is evident through the amount of acids found. In hot coffee brewing, the acids are extracted with the help of the water temperature. The cold inhibits the acid formation and creates a smoother, sweeter and more dense coffee alternative."
After Maddux finished brewing the Belgian Dubbel base, it took five or six taste tests and coffee additions to get the perfect blend. The final beer maintains a thoughtful balance between wisps of sultry smoke, the light malty sweetness of the Belgian Dubbel, and mellow cold brew coffee.
When it comes to coffee-beer collaborations, it's really easy to go whole hog with the caffeine, resulting in a beer that's bold and can be overly jolted with java. Those in-your-face brews certainly have a place in the spectrum, but it's often difficult to drink more than one in a single sitting. This is not the case with the Jittery Monk. It's subtle and light-bodied.
After the Bats and Beers debut, Jittery Monk made its first public appearance at a beer dinner at Jack Allen's Kitchen, Maddux said. When it received a positive response from the crowd, Thirsty Planet decided to make a larger batch.
You can still find the beer on multiple taps around town, and if you miss out on it this time around, Maddux plans to brew a big batch in January, one that will likely be bottled as a winter seasonal.
And in the meantime, Thirsty Planet isn't done with Franklin BBQ. Watch for the next collaboration release: a Franklin Smoked Porter.
Playing with beer
What does a brewery do when operations are finally up and running, they've identified a sturdy set of standard year-round offerings, and established a loyal following? If they're lucky, they have the time and energy to get a little creative.
San Antonio's Ranger Creek Brewing has started getting playful with their beer offerings, by releasing the first in a new series of small batch brews.
The series is a line of seasonal single batch brews that gives the brewers a chance to stretch their wings and get a little experimental on us. A new batch will be released every quarter, in bottles featuring a QR code that you can scan to get the details. Once each batch sells, it won't be available, so the brewery recommends saving one for later.
The first release, out now, is an Oak-aged Rye OPA. The recipe is a resurrection of UNO, the brewery's one-year anniversary beer released in November, with rye added to the grain bill, then aged in oak barrels for a month.
Mark McDavid sent me a few sample bottles to check out.
The bottles are dipped in wax, which the press release warns "may impart a slight odor," but reassures that "it has no affect on the beer inside." This odor is most certainly present, and slightly alarming, but thankfully the smell dissipates after the wax is removed.
Once poured into a pint glass, the nose blossoms with a floral combination of elderflower, hibiscus and undertones of walnut. The beer starts out as tart and citrus-forward, then evolves into soft malts with a slight toasted flavor, finishing with a dry, bitter oak.
Looking forward to the next one.
Last time we touched base with Austin's new beermakers at Rogness Brewing Company, their first beers had hit the market.
Now, they've set a date for an official grand-opening party. The event will take place on Saturday, July 7, and will be broken up into two sessions, one from noon to 3 p.m. and a second from 4 to 7 p.m.
For the $12 admission fee (plus a 99 cent processing fee), you get a limited edition pint glass, tour of the facilities, and free samples of their six beers. Food trucks will be on site to provide tasty snacks. Go to www.rognessbrewing.com to buy tickets.