Coffee-infused stouts are fairly common in the craft beer industry, especially in imperial stouts. 3 Sheeps Brewing has produced a new variation on the style with Hello, My Name Is Joe—an imperial black wheat ale infused with coffee. This beer was first introduced by 3 Sheeps in Spring 2013 as a draught-only option, but the brewery released it again this Spring in bottles.
“You definitely need to like coffee to appreciate this beer,” says Pauly. “I love that flavor and always wanted to make a coffee beer…We’re all big coffee drinkers [at 3 Sheeps], so I thought it would be nice to do a beer that was coffee with a hint of beer.”
Beyond the coffee, Midnight Wheat is central to Joe’s taste. It naturally possesses its own chocolate, caramel, and coffee-like flavors without the bitterness often associated with deeply malted barley, so it’s a natural fit for this style of beer. Hello My Name Is Joe gets much of its dark color from Midnight Wheat, but it only makes up about 5% of the total grist. Pauly doesn’t use any dark or chocolate malts—just the Midnight Wheat along with white wheat and some brewer’s base malts. He chose Columbus hops because of their aromatic qualities and slight bitterness.
The coffee used in Hello, My Name Is Joe is a Sumatra roasted specifically for 3 Sheeps by Milwaukee’s Colectivo Coffee.
The Cooperative Gayo Linge Organic Coffee was founded in 2008 in the Bener Meriah area on the island of Sumatra in Western Indonesia. The group is composed of over 1,000 farmers from villages throughout this central mountain area in Sumatra known for its Gayo coffees. Cooperative members are not only coffee farmers but also village collectors (local traders) and government leaders of the local villages. The cooperative stresses the involvement of the village government leaders in helping its producer group encourage other coffee farmers and members to join and participate in Gayo Linge.
The cooperative evolved from an organic coffee producer group organized by the current cooperative chairman, Mr. Shalat. He is a local coffee agent (trader) who has bought parchment coffee from village collectors to sell to local exporters. Aside from being a trader, Mr. Shalat is also a small coffee farmer who intends to focus on growing the cooperative’s reputation as an international producer of quality coffees.
Gayo Linge’s immediate goals are to train and build capacity among its members to improve the quality of its coffees. All members of Cooperative Gayo Linge Organic Coffee are traditional small-holder coffee farmers that depend mainly on coffee for their living. Many families were forced to abandon their coffee gardens during the armed conflict in Aceh Province, and as a result of the violent past, some members of the cooperative are widows. The coffee farmers are of Gayonese, Javanese and Acehnese ethnic origin. They live in simple, mostly wooden houses; most have access to electricity, but drinking water supply is insufficient during the dry season.
While the farmers’ major source of income is coffee (which represents 60 to 90 percent of total household income), most families also sell vegetables, fruits and palm sugar, and most adults work as hired laborers (in home or road construction, or picking of coffee and weeding in other coffee farms) during the off-season. Borrowing money during the off-season is a common practice and most obtain an interest-free loan from local traders or collectors.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Hello My Name Is Joe Imperial Black Wheat Coffee Ale—a collaboration from Wisconsin’s 3 Sheeps Brewing and Colectivo Coffee. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Bener Meriah, Sumatra, Indonesia
producer: smallholder farmers
association: Gayo Linge Organic Coffee
elevation: 1100 – 1400 meters above sea level
cultivar: Timtim, Bourbon
process: semi-washed, patio dried
certifications: Fair Trade, Organic
style: Imperial Black Wheat Coffee Ale
ingredients: Coffee, White Wheat, Midnight Wheat, Columbus Hops
stemware: Willi Becher
Hello My Name Is Joe greets my nose with a powerful aroma of coffee, chocolate, barley, and citrus. Visually, the beer is a deep black and it presents with a minimal dark tan head; maybe about a quarter inch thick.
What I’m really struck by, taking my first few sips of this beer, is how unusual and complex its mouthfeel is. It is at once both thick, heavy, malty, and “chewy”—what I’d expect from a porter or a stout—and light, lively, and effervescent—what I’d expect from a wheat ale or IPA. It’s very peculiar.
In terms of flavor profile, coffee is, indeed, the dominant taste. Flavors of bittersweet dark chocolate, peanut butter, caramel, and roasted barley dominate the profile, while a subtle red grape acidity resides quietly in the background of each sip. That’s the positive. Unfortunately, though, I’m not a huge fan of the coffee 3 Sheeps selected for this stout and I don’t like what Colectivo did with that coffee: the fact that the coffee component is a Sumatra is overwhelmingly evident as musty oak, smoky roastiness, and a spicy alcoholic burn play out through the finish, particularly as the beer warms up to room temperature.
Full body; bubbly mouthfeel; citrus acidity; clean finish.
While I found Hello My Name Is Joe to be a mostly pleasurable sipping experience, I must confess that, if given the ability, there was more about it that I’d change than keep. This collaboration from 3 Sheeps Brewing and Colectivo Coffee works just fine as is, but it could have been a whole lot better in one of these two scenarios: 1) the beer component was a stout or porter style, or 2) the coffee component was a Kenya.
The second option would have been the better choice. Given the wheat and the hops used, a Kenyan coffee could have really helped to bolster the beer’s citric acidity while maintaining the chocolate malt and barley overtones; it also would have imparted a really nice red berry or grape flavor that I felt Hello My Name Is Joe was missing.
(And if a Kenya could make an imperial black wheat ale pop the way I think it would, I can only imagine what the beer would be like if it were a black IPA. But that’s neither here nor there.)
The beer really suffered on account of the Sumatra, though. That coffee added a musty oak flavor in the finish that really didn’t fit in with the beer’s effervescent, bubbly texture. Again, the Sumatra used here would have been better suited for a porter or a stout.
The biggest shame about Hello My Name Is Joe, though, is that I know for a fact that 3 Sheeps is capable of producing AMAZING coffee beers. I tried Nimble Lips Noble Tongue Volume 6 with the Few Brews Beer Club on their podcast a few months ago and that beer was vastly superior to this one.
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