Carla Jean Lauter

The Beer Babe

Tag: Peak

Some Malt With Your Coffee?

I’m new to drinking coffee, but I am definitely a fan of coffee beer. After having a sip of Dogfish Head Brewing – Miles Davis Bitches’ Brew that was poured through espresso beans a few weeks ago, I’ve been looking for a coffee-flavored-beer fix. I missed out on the opportunity to try Sixpoint Brewing Company’s 3Beans as well, only furthering my want for coffee and beer.

Peak+Organic+Espresso+AmberSo, naturally, when I stumbled upon the gold-foil topped bottle from Peak Organic Brewing Company with the words Espresso Amber written on it, I didn’t think twice about bringing it home.

It is somewhat unusual to come across a beer involving coffee that isn’t dark beer. As a whole, beers brewed with coffee tend to be on the heavier side in terms of taste – the complexity of the coffee blends easily into a beer brewed with darker roasted malts. Most of the coffee beers I’ve tasted are dark, sticky and have a great roastiness without the bitterness of coffee, which is why I picked up on them even before becoming a coffee drinker.

When I poured out the Espresso Amber I was reminded by its dark amber color that isn’t what kind of coffee beer this is. It’s something completely different. This beer is described by Peak as “a robust amber ale” and the taste as “malty.”

Instead of overwhelming me with a plume of coffee aroma, this beer offered up a lot more subtle profile. There was definitely a malt-forward aroma, and it’s almost like the coffee came in as a gentle suggestion towards the end of each whiff. The taste was unusually balanced – with a great wash of malt and complementary coffee flavors. However, the coffee flavor seemed just perfectly distributed throughout what would have been a good beer to begin with.

My biggest compliment – and complaint – about this beer is that it is very, very easy to drink. The mouthfeel is thin so it is refreshing to drink, and its ease across your palate will allow you to drink it more quickly than you’d expect. So much so that I was at the bottom of my pint glass before I even began to think about describing it. Thankfully, the ABV is 6.8%, so you won’t be in too much trouble if it just goes down way too smoothly.

For those not familiar with Peak (because they don’t have brewery tours, etc. like most of the other breweries in town), they are Portland’s quiet, yet solid organic brewery making some really exceptionally tasty brews while keeping with their pledge to use organic ingredients.

This beer is not just an interesting beer and coffee combo, but the product of local collaboration. It is brewed with organic fair-trade espresso from local coffee roaster Coffee By Design. Because of their partnership with Transfair (a non-profit that helps to promote and grow fair trade and wages for farmers), this is the first Fair Trade Certified beer to be brewed in the U.S. While I’m not sure it should replace your morning beverage, it certainly is an interesting way to showcase a different side of coffee.

Peak – Espresso Amber Ale


Unlike many of the dark coffee stouts and porters out there, the brewers at Peak decided on something a little different for their coffee beer. Instead of a dark beer they chose to put it in an amber ale, which I heard good things about. I had this one while at a bar in Exeter, discussing the history and future of brewing in New Hampshire and Maine. 

The Peak Espresso Amber Ale (which, like all Peak brews is made from organic ingredients) is a dark red to light brown color, and has a really great smell. The nose is very coffee, but with a lot of sweetness.
I should preface the tasting portion of the review with a confession that I don’t regularly drink coffee, so I lack some of the vocabulary and understanding to describe this in intricate detail. That being said, I really enjoyed the taste of this one. It had a hop presence but left a nice burnt coffee bitterness behind on the tongue. I think the slightly sweet ale balances this bitterness well, and you’re left with a strong but pleasant coffee taste, without having to drink a heavy, high ABV beer. I don’t know how, but brewers are making me reconsider my anti-coffee ways. 
I like this brew and would recommend it to coffee and non coffee drinkers alike. As a bonus, it is made with (and is a tribute to) locally roasted fair-trade coffee. Very cool.

Peak Organic – Maple Oat Ale

I admit, though being a huge fan of organic food, I didn’t chose this because it was organic, I saw the words ‘maple’ and ‘ale’ on the label and thought, “mmmn. mapleyummybeerness”

So, after wiping up the drool from my imagined taste of maple beer, I brought this one home. It is made with organic Maine oats and local organic Vermont Maple syrup – a kudos to these guys for using local ingredients, also a plus in my book.
It pours a cloudy mahogay with a little head with big bubbles. The smell is of maple syrup and a tiny bit of hops.. it reminds me of smelling something cooked with maple syrup, or maybe just the smell of a saphouse in spring. 

The taste was quite interesting. It had a few layers. The first layer was all beer – nice and balanced ale, the middle and end were of almost a roasty maple syrup (dark amber instead of light amber). The finish on this leaves a really pleasant maple taste. I like this, its not fake nor is it too sweet. It is a gentle reminder of fall, maple, and the saphouses that make Vermont famous. You could marinate meat in this and get a nice maple flavor out of it. Or better yet, have it with a wintry/fall meal. 
If anything, this beer is kind of a testament to the New England way of life. To sip gently, enjoy your beer, and be proud of your heritage and your own hand-harvested, family owned and boiled maple syrup. 

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