In a world-class city like Chicago—a city with a host of world-class breweries and roasteries—it’s easy to forget about the suburbs and their contributions to Illinois’s overall craft beverage scene. But in the town of Addison, just 45 minutes due West of Chicago, resides a roaster, Tugboat Coffee, who recently teamed up with Schaumburg’s RAM Brewery to create a Guatemala Finca El Injertal-infused IPA.
After tasting RAM Brewery’s Big Red IPA, the folks at Tugboat Coffee decided that their Guatemala El Injertal would be a perfect complement to their hop profile. After developing the recipe over a few months, Big Red Tugboat Coffee IPA was born.
To brew the beer, RAM added coarsely ground city-roasted coffee directly to the fermented IPA—similar to dry hopping.
Finca El Injertal is a family owned and operated estate located near the small town of La Democracia in the mountains of Huehuetenango, in the northwest region of Guatemala. Founded by Jose Olivio Chavez in the 1930’s, the farm has been producing high quality coffees for three generations and is operated today by Jose Olivio’s grandson, Jose Alejandro.
The 205 acre farm has 173 acres in coffee productionwhile the remaining 32 acres are kept as a forest preserve where native species of trees provide refuge for wildlife in the area. The farm contains several natural springs that provide an adequate wate supply during the dry season and are used as a source of energy to run the coffee processing mill.
Certified by the Rainforest Alliance, the coffee plantation is completedly coverd with shade trees, a source of abundant organic matter and an aid in soil erosion control, an important consideration due to the steep hillsides in this area. All of these circumstances—rich soil, adequate water, and high altitude—result in a unique miroclimate well suited for the production of high quality coffee. The quality of El Injertal’s coffee was first recognized in the first Guatemala Cup of Excellence Auction of Guatemalan coffees and is still recognized today as a farm of distinction.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Big Red Tugboat Coffee IPA—a collaboration between RAM Brewery and Tugboat Coffee in Addison, Illinois. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Huehuetenango, Guatemala
farm: Finca El Injertal
producer: Jose Alejandro
elevation: 1490 – 2000 meters above sea level
cultivar: Caturra. Mondo Novo
process: fully washed, patio dried
certifications: Rainforest Alliance
style: Coffee Pale Ale
color: Dark Amber
ingredients: Coffee, Two Row Pale Malt, Dark Crystal Malt, Cascade Hops, Amarillo Hops, Citra Hops
stemware: Nonic Pint
Upon pouring the beer into my pint glass, visually, it is a dark, cloudy amber with a very minimal off-white head that quickly dissipates, but leaves behind long, long legs. The aroma definitely has a coffee presence but it, too, is pretty minimal; more like a coffee fragrance than a heavy coffee aroma. Instead, its aroma is much more influenced by its hops—lots of zesty citrus, pine, honey.
The taste of the beer follows the nose; coffee is definitely aboard the Big Red Tugboat, but it doesn’t have nearly the presence I assumed it would. This beer has a great balance, though; it’s apparent that a lot of care and attention was put into ensuring that the coffee wasn’t just infused with the beer, but that it complemented it perfectly. The coffee comes through in waves, with faint hints of cocoa and caramel, but this beer is definitely hop-centric first and foremost.
Loads and loads of bright, effervescent, zesty lemon rind inundate the taste buds, dancing on the tongue and sparkling on the palate. The Cascade and Amarillo hops also present the palate with some notes of pine needles, honey, cantaloupe, peach, strawberry, and certainly a flowery presence throughout the finish.
Medium body; buttery mouthfeel; citric acidity; clean finish.
I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this beer, but I was surprised to find that Big Red Tugboat was incredible. What this beer got right wasn’t just its flavor, though; its balance was absolutely spot on. It’s a very hoppy and citrus-heavy IPA, and the coffee element acts as a backbone to support it.
Big Red Tugboat Coffee IPA…? More like Big Red Tugboat IPAWESOME.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.