Green Flash Ristretto: the Coffee Lover's Beer

Beer: Ristretto Cosmic Black Lager Brewery: Green Flash Brewing Co. Style: Schwarzbier ABV: 8.2 percent

This column is normally directed at beer aficionados, but coffee connoisseurs may also want to pay close attention -- this week's brew is packed with enough espresso flavor that it earned the name Ristretto.

For the un-caffeinated, ristretto is a short shot of espresso with roughly half the amount of water, but the same coffee content as a standard shot. It is to espresso as espresso is to coffee: bolder, fuller, more intense. A pour for coffee purists.

Ristretto gets its coffee flavor from several varieties of roasted malts and a dose of concentrated, cold pressed espresso. Green Flash Brewing Co. developed the brew as part of its new Genius Lab program, which enables employees -- not just brewers -- to work with Brewmaster Chuck Silva to develop new, experimental beers that are introduced at the brewery's San Diego taproom. Once these innovative releases hit the taps, they're often never seen again. Luckily for us, some extra Ristretto made it to Phoenix.

Find the beer on draft and you'll experience a lager colored deep black, topped with a thick layer of froth the density and color of latte foam. Dip your nose close -- you'll get oily coffee beans, molasses, dark chocolate and burnt toast swirl. The coffee note is knife-sharp, with a hint of tangy fruitiness. Chocolate malts contribute a more cocoa-focused flavor, with nutty, peppery coffee still present, albeit in lesser amounts. Fuzzy carbonation excites the medium-light body, while the alcohol delivers soft, peppery heat and a bit of numbness.

For coffee-lovers, Ristretto is a must-try. The schwarzbier style, fairly light in body but packed with roasted malts, lends itself to rich coffee flavor. Here's the catch: only four kegs of the brew came to the Valley, so you'll have to do some hunting. Pop a few ristretto shots for some energy while you search.

Zach Fowle is a BJCP-recognized beer judge and a Certified Cicerone. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.

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