Roll up, roll up for the Magical Mystery Kind—a beer that takes another bold leap forward in the coffee-infused beer market.
Magical Mystery Kind is a saison produced by Chicago’s Mikerphone Brewing, that is brewed both with Tugboat Coffee’s cold-brewed Cascara and Ethiopian Natural Guji coffee.
Guji is a sub-city of Sidama in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) in southern Ethiopia. Sidama is home to several of the best known sub-areas in Ethiopian coffee. Rather than coming from individual larger farms like many coffees in the Americas, most coffees from East Africa are compiled from many small producers harvesting both wild and cultivated coffee. The coffee cherry is delivered to a local washing station for processing, and eventually graded and sold at a central government-run marketplace, the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX). Most ECX coffees are sold under wider regional names, but higher scoring coffees from certain sub-areas like Guji are labelled for better (but not perfect) traceability..
Interestingly, Magical Mystery Kind is also brewed with cascara. Cascara, which means “husk,” “peel,” or “skin” in Spanish, is the dried skins of coffee cherries. These pulped skins are collected after the seeds have been removed from the cherries. They are then dried in the sun before they are packaged and shipped off. The neat part about this whole process is that not only does it allow for the coffee plant to be used in a creative way, but it’s also eco-friendly. Normally coffee cherries are considered a by-product of the coffee-making process and are either discarded as waste or used as compost. Now these cherries are being reused to produce a unique drink of their own.
The cascara Tugboat used in this beer is the first batch from the Santa Barbara Estate in Colombia. Located in Antioquia between 1400-1980 masl and owned by Don Pedro Echavarria. We have been using his coffee for decaf for a few years and Don Pedro was in Atlanta for SCAA this year and was excited to showcase his cascara. We have had several very good cascara’s but this is the best, cleanest example we have found. Tasting the cold brew prior to diluting the beer, was the closest you could come to eating a ripe cherry directly off of the tree. We might end up brewing a batch, carbonating it and selling it by the keg.
Some of you might remember that back in June 2015 we brought you the first Tugboat Coffee collaboration beer; the beer was called Big Red Tugboat, and it was a collaboration between RAM Brewery and Tugboat Coffee. That beer was very unique for a coffee-infused IPA and was very, very tasty. In fact, it was my third favorite of the year! So naturally I was excited when a new collaboration brew arrived from Tugboat Coffee. And for that beer to be a collaboration with Mikerphone Brewing—one of the best, most exciting craft breweries out there…? Let’s just say I have very high hopes going into this review.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Magical Mystery Kind Coffee Saison, from Mikerphone Brewing in Chicago, Illinois. Feel free to pull up a chair.
origin: Sidama, Guji, Ethiopia // Antioquia, Colombia
farm: N/A // Santa Barbara Estate
producer: smallholder farmers // Don Pedro Echavarria
association: ECX // N/A
elevation: 1900 – 2000 // 1400 – 1980 meters above sea level
cultivars: Ethiopia Heirloom // Colombia, Caturra
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
alcohol by volume: 6.5%
international bitterness units: N/A
color: Reddish Amber
The aroma of the Magical Mystery Kind is unique and complex. I’m getting the classic banana, clove, and pepper notes saisons are famous for, but the coffee is what’s really jumping out at me: blackberry, strawberry, cherry, pineapple… There’s also a bit of sugary sweetness coming from the malt to round everything out. Smells slightly funky, fruity, juicy. Crazy, but it works somehow. The beer pours into my tulip a hazy golden orange color with a finger of off-white head that dissipates quickly.
Just like the aroma, the taste is crazy; but, again, it somehow works. Very complex. Definitely unique. Magical and mysterious, even.
Up front I’m tasting the juicy banana, pineapple, plum, cranberry, cherry, papaya. A little bit of peppery clove is there, too – biting at the tip of my tongue. The mouthfeel seems to have lower carbonation, which helps to further push the coffee flavors out front; and as the beer warmed I found some additional fruit flavors and some interesting (yet traditional) saison spicy flavors. The earth and berry-forward coffee is coming through, but not like most other coffee-infused beers. No, this is more of a really complex beer. Which is the proper lens to view these beers through, anyway. As I transition into the finish, the beer dries out and the coffee notes come through more. Once again, I was expecting more roast than I’m actually getting. Rather, the coffee is packed with blackberry, strawberry, and raspberry. A slight funky, tart note hits the palate on the finish as well.
This is one of the oddest and most unique beers I’ve had. I didn’t think it would work, but leave it up to Mikerphone to prove me wrong. The fruity coffee and tart cascara that were chosen was perfect to complement the already fruity and spicy yeast esters the saison farmhouse yeast provides. A complex and well-made beer.
The coffee and saison qualities somehow coexist without impeding on one another. Just like the band this beer was named for. Well. For a time, anyway.
What were your thoughts of this one? Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome! Feel free to enter a comment below. Also remember to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and follow us on Instagram!
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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.