I used to drink coffee, but gave it up years ago. Now, the only time I get coffee in my diet is if it’s included in the ingredients of my beer.
Which is OK, because the earthy aroma of coffee beans is a hell of a pairing with the roasted, chocolatey flavors of malt. This is part of the reason I picked up Wolaver’s Alta Gracia coffee porter. The other reason is my slight knowledge of the Dominican city from which this beer gets its name. Alta Gracia is one of the few cities in the Caribbean or South America where companies have established a honest living-wage system for workers, which most notably includes Alta Gracia apparel.
Fittingly, sales of Wolaver’s porter – made in coordination with Vermont Coffee Company – are returned to the community through fair trade prices, support for a community literacy program and teacher and donations that fund a sustainable agriculture volunteer. That’s pretty cool. The porter has an 87 on Beer Advocate, to boot. As with all of Wolaver’s beers, their coffee porter is certified organic.
Now that we’ve got our feel-good economics lesson out of the way, let’s dip into the feel-good beer portion after the jump.
Here’s the long and the short of it, punctuated by this picture. Looking at this brew from above, with it’s light brown foam and dark, dark color, should I have known right away this wasn’t coffee if not for the beer bottle it came from?
The smell of this beer is straight-up coffee house, no kidding. As soon as I took a whiff, I was transported back to a recent visit I made to Tryst in Washington, D.C., where I drank beer, but coffee – and it’s smell – is everywhere. From the bottle to the glass to my nose, all I could smell was freshly roasted, dark coffee beans. Maybe just a hint of the beer’s malt showcasing caramel and toffee. Vanilla beans were also used in the brewing process, and a touch of that aroma escapes on each smell. I don’t know what kind of coffee all this would equate to, but it certainly doesn’t add up to a regular glass of beer.
Which should also be said about the beer’s flavor profile. While there was plenty of coffee taste to be had, what impressed me most was how smooth the mouthfeel was. The porter offered a light, effervescent tingle up front and the middle of each sip was like creamy velvet leading to a finish that left my tongue a little dry, not unlike the finish to a sip of coffee. Very fitting. Again, coffee is front and center for this beer’s taste, with not much else showing up to play except for a touch of that vanilla. After letting the beer sit and warm for a bit, tons of sweet, caramel malt – almost like candy – started to come through. Although, that could easily be a taste bud reaction to some residual bitterness left from the coffee beans.
All this being said, Wolaver’s coffee porter is a beer made by coffee lovers, for coffee lovers. With that in mind, I could easily argue there could be too many coffee characteristics to a fault. Halfway through my glass I thought to myself, “when do I get to taste the beer?” This could be a good thing or a bad thing. At worst, this beer is something that beer lovers who drink coffee should try. At best, this beer could make coffee lovers who aren’t necessarily beer drinkers think twice about their favorite beverage.
Alta Gracia coffee porter stats (taken from homebrew clone recipe):
- Malt: Chocolate, white wheat, black
- Hops: Nugget
- Adjuncts: Coffee and vanilla beans
- ABV: 5 percent