Southern Tier Brewing Company has been brewing their Mokah Stout since 2009. A combination of two of their other acclaimed Blackwater Series Imperial Stouts—Jahva and Choklat—Mokah is an imperial stout, blended with heaping doses of chocolate and coffee. Sadly, the most recent release is the last time Southern Tier will be brewing Mokah Stout, so I wanted to make sure I picked up a bottle before it goes away.
For this release, Southern Tier teamed up with their local roastery, Stedman Coffee, and used their Jamaica Blue Mountain as the beer’s coffee component.
JAMAICA BLUE MOUNTAIN
Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee is a classification of coffee grown in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. The best lots of Blue Mountain coffee are noted for their mild flavor and lack of bitterness. Over the past few decades, this coffee has developed a reputation that has made it one of the most expensive and sought-after coffees in the world.
The Blue Mountains are generally located between Kingston to the south and Port Antonio to the north. Rising to 2,300 meters above sea level, they are some of the highest mountains in the Caribbean. The climate of the region is cool and misty with high rainfall. The soil is rich, with excellent drainage. This combination of climate and soil is considered ideal for coffee.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Mokah Stout, from Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood, New York. Feel free to pull up a chair.
style: Imperial Stout
alcohol by volume: 10%
international bitterness units: 60
ingredients: Coffee, 2-row Malt, Caramel Malt, Chocolate Malt, Black Malt, Natural Chocolate Flavor, Columbus Hops
Mokah Stout pours into the snifter a thick, dark, opaque black, and is topped by a thin, dark tan head that dissipates quickly and forms a collar around the glass.
An intense, massive aroma pervades the air as it comes booming out of the glass. This is an aroma that demands my attention; it reaches out, grabs me by the lapels, and gives me a shake. Honestly, as soon as I cracked open the bottle a huge chocolate bomb exploded; being in the glass, though, it’s as though my bar area instantly transmogrified into a chocolate factory. This is a very sweet, dessert-like aroma, with all of its chocolate overtones being backed up by scents of malt and burnt sugars. For a coffee-infused stout, there is surprisingly very little coffee presence in the aroma; then again, it might very well be there in spades, but it’s difficult to get past all dat choklit.
The flavor follows the nose; the first few sips are like guzzling a bottle of Hershey’s chocolate syrup. Much like its appearance indicates, this is a heavy, full-bodied coffee with a thick, viscous mouthfeel that coats the tongue with a mild rolling carbonation. There are flavors of toasted malts, barley, and oats, and a very mild roasted coffee bitterness, and as the beer warms up these ancillary flavors become more obvious, in addition to faint hints of hops, caramelized sugars, and a bit of an alcohol warmth that provides a nice accent; the coffee component adds more bitterness, but not much outside of that. Again, chocolate is the real star of the show.
Full body; viscous mouthfeel; carbonic acidity; clean finish.
Time and time again, when it comes to coffee-infused stouts and porters, we see companies throwing in coffees, seemingly, with little to no strategy for the overall profile. “We wanted a generic coffee flavor, so we put some coffee in it.” While there has been some progress made to reverse this trend—with brewers being much more intentional about the coffee they’re selecting to infuse in their beer, not just as a flavor component, but as a flavor complement.
Unfortunately, Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Mokah Stout represents the former. Mokah Stout is a very heavy, viscous, full-bodied beer, and extremely sweet, to boot. Ironically, for a beer that touts itself as a “coffee stout,” its coffee presence is minimal; especially in contrast with its chocolate component, which completely overtakes the profile. I’m not sure why Southern Tier sourced a JMB coffee for this one, either; my best guess is they didn’t want a coffee with a sharp acidity and a heavy chocolate flavor of its own. But JMB coffees are also really fickle, and many have an herbal/earthy/nutty flavor profile. I think, for this coffee, a coffee from Guatemala (with mild sugars and a more prominent fruit presence) or Brazil (with mild sugars, a more prominent nut presence, and an orange citric acidity) would have been beautiful in this particular beer.
None of this is to say that Mokah Stout isn’t tasty, mind you; it is a tasty beer—a very sweet, dessert-like beer; it’s just not as good as it could be. And, for my money, considering how prominent the chocolate flavor was and how minimal the coffee presence was, I’d just as soon buy Southern Tier’s Choklat Stout; which, I presume, has all of the chocolaty sweetness Mokah Stout had and none of the superfluous generic coffee bitterness.