I recently picked up a variety pack of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company beers, pleasantly surprised to find a bottle of Sierra Nevada Coffee Stout—a beer that I didn’t know existed, to be honest. I am very well-acquainted with most of their other beers, however—they brew some of my favorite light, hoppy beers. Torpedo, India Pale, Hop Hunter, Nooner, Otra Vez, Celebration, Summerfest, Sidecar… But I’ve never really had much exposure to their heavier beers; their Stout, their Porter, their Narwhal, or, indeed, their Coffee Stout.
So I’m excited to try it! And even more excited because they infused this stout with coffee from a very well-known and reputable coffee roaster—Philadelphia’s La Colombe.
The coffee they infused this beer with was a version of La Colombe’s Pure Black cold brew, which itself is comprised of their Nizza Blend. It has coffee varietals from Brazil, Columbia, Congo, and Nicaragua. Nizza is a medium roast blend that’s named for the city of Nice, France, hometown of our co-founder JP, and home to some of the best honey in the world. True to its name, this coffee exemplifies a honey-sweet, roasted nuttiness. It’s a longstanding favorite of La Colombe, and the coffee they use for espresso in all of their cafes.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Sierra Nevada Coffee Stout, from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California. Feel free to pull up a chair.
origin: Brazil // Colombia // Congo // Nicaragua
color: Dark Brown
stemware: Nonic Pint Glass
Sierra Nevada Coffee Stout pours a dark brown that it almost looks black; however, holding it up to the light, you can see those reddish hues around the glass. It has a pretty thick one and a half finger foamy head that’s packed with bubbles, but it dissipates almost immediately, leaving moderate lacing behind.
Scents of roasted grains, cocoa powder, burnt coffee, and sheet metal—sheet metal—pervade the aroma. The coffee notes are very mild, though I can still detect some dark berry and roasted nut notes coming through.
The flavor follows the nose, and the beer is a much lighter body and a much more watery mouthfeel than
I was expecting it to it should for the style (though I suppose its lightness is congruous with the rest of Sierra Nevada’s beer lineup). There are the classic coffee stout notes of cocoa powder, chocolate malts, berries, raisin, grain, and roasted barley… I’m also tasting nuances of charred wood, earth, and piney hops. But, again, there’s a pretty strong metallic flavor that is making this beer very unpleasant to drink.
I’ve drank a lot of beers that I didn’t particularly like in my day, and I’ve very rarely encountered one that I just couldn’t drink. Sierra Nevada Coffee Stout, though, was unfortunately one of those beers. I just couldn’t get through the whole bottle.
Sierra Nevada Coffee Stout is acrid and bitter, tasting much more like the dregs at the bottom of Todd Carmichael’s famous Dragon coffee brewer than the actual coffee the Dragon brews; and the beer’s body is far too thin for the style, and far too thin for the coffee they infused it with. A “medium roast” in La Colombe’s world is still a pretty dark roast compared to other specialty coffee roasters, and this stout’s thinness just couldn’t compensate for that. If Sierra Nevada employed a heavier dose of chocolate malts to produce a more fuller-bodied, dense beer, maybe their Coffee Stout could have worked.
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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.