After raving about the Red Hook Double black, a twitter follower, @BrettGlenna, told me about this brew, “If I like coffee,” he tweeted, “you’ll love this.”
I didn’t mention it at the time, but I don’t like coffee. I don’t drink it, I can’t even eat it in ice cream. There’s something about the bitterness and the burnt taste that I can’t get over. But after prodding from several people, I have let myself fall head over heels in love with dark stouts, and coffee stouts were a recent discovery that I found I enjoyed. I’ve been quoted as saying “If coffee tasted like this [coffee stout], then I’d drink coffee!”
That being said, @BrettGlenna was still gracious enough to send me the Coffee Bender. I expected a bottle – and it was actually in a can that was the size of an energy drink. I poured it out and found it to be thick, black and with a nice foamy head. Its a brown ale (instead of a porter or stout) so seeing a decent head come off it was also a very good thing.
The aroma surprised me. It didn’t smell like a dark beer, but rather had a strong and distinctly coffee undertone. I was ever so slightly hesitant, because somewhere in the back of my mind I thought it reminded me of the scent of a cold cup of coffee left out on my coworker’s desk. But the smell wasn’t off putting other than in my own imaginings, so I decided to dive right in anyway.
The taste was what I would imagine an iced black coffee to taste like. It had an almost toast-like flavor behind the malty coffee taste. Instead of the malty backbone, it really did taste just like coffee, but somehow better. There wasn’t a burnt taste, which is what made this quite enjoyable. It was dark without being very heavy, either – and I think a brown ale was a good vehicle to deliver the beer’s coffee-ness. It is almost as if the coffee in this perked it up a little, and certainly made it drinkable.
Similar to other coffee brews that I’ve liked, the secret seems to be to do something with the coffee and cold water. (Hot water makes it too bitter perhaps?) Surly “steeps” their beer in ground coffee beans for 24 hours, which produces this interesting effect.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I can get this brew again any time soon. Surly Brewing is out of Minnesota, and I don’t get much from the midwest out my way. But for those of you who come across it and like coffee, (or in my case, even if you don’t) this one is worth bringing home.