Beer: Imperial Java Stout Brewery: Santa Fe Brewing Co. Style: American Imperial Stout ABV: 8 percent
Beer: It's what's for breakfast. It's also for second breakfast, brunch, lunch, second lunch, first dinner and dessert, but today it's mainly for breakfast. And when a beer is for breakfast, there's only one style that's appropriate: coffee stout.
This is why the appearance of Santa Fe's Imperial Java Stout on Arizona shelves makes me so happy. The brewery's Chicken Killer Barleywine and State Pen Porter have long been available in Arizona, but this stout -- first brewed in 2007 -- only began popping up in local stores this past winter.
Pour the beer into a shaker pint -- or, you know, a coffee mug -- and you'll see that the brew resembles java not just in name, but in appearance. Pitch black and watery thin, the liquid is capped by a pillowy head of cascading bubbles the color of brown sugar. Frothy trails of lace coat the sides of the glass like latte foam.
Because their dark, toasty, burnt flavors often overlap, few ingredients work together so well in a beer as roasted malt and coffee beans. For Imperial Java Stout, Santa Fe makes use of organically grown East Timor coffee beans blended with New Guinea coffee beans, both of which are roasted by Ohori's Coffee House in Santa Fe. The result is a stout that's huge in coffee aroma and flavor. The scent is akin to burying your nose in a cupful of java -- it's packed with espresso and sweet cream. Touches of sourdough and a shot of chocolate syrup mingle in the background.
The flavor delivers a similar dose of roasted beans, though it's a little more acidic. A complex blend of American Bravo and English Fuggle hops lend subtle spice and earthy qualities, while touches of burnt toast play off the coffee. It's a bit harsh -- like very, very black coffee -- until the the swallow delivers oats and cream, sweetening and smoothing things out.
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If you're not a fan of coffee, you'll probably hate this beer, because the flavor is riddled with it, and the coffee actually overpowers the underlying stout. But the beans are quality, and if you're looking to swap out your morning joe with something a little more alcoholic, pour this in your mug. No one will be the wiser.
Food pairing suggestions: Text on the can advises that the brew is "not for use with donuts," but they didn't say anything about coffee cake. The roasted malt tones down the cake's sweetness and accents its flavor, while the buttery dessert smooths out the bitterness of the coffee beans.