Here are the tasting notes for a coffee beer that isn’t brown, black, inky, syrupy, or opaque. The key for this American blonde recipe was adding a coffee that melds with the light malt, i.e., one that is bright, acidic, and citrusy. Ceremony Thesis in this case. There are many ingredients that are easy to oversimplify or overlook, like: chocolate, fruit, and coffee. For each of these there are people who are just as nerdy about the variety and processing as we are about hops!
When I posted about this recipe originally, I got plenty of suggestions on my Facebook and Twitter for other pale beers with coffee from all over America: Noble Ale Works Naughty Sauce, Black Acre Brewing Coffee Bitter Life, Monday Night Brewing Bed Head, Fort George Brewery Java the Hop, Carton Brewing Regular Coffee, and for Brazilians Morada Cia Etílica Hop Arabica! If you aren't sold on the combination, seek one out (or next time you are bottling a hoppy beer, toss a couple coffee beans into one).
Coffee American Blonde
Appearance – Similar in color to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. If you really wanted to brew a coffee beer and have it remain “blonde,” likely you’d need to go all Pilsner and wheat. The color from the C60 and Golden Naked Oats I added for deeper malt flavor combined with the the coffee to result in the honey color. Mildly hazy. Wonderfully creamy white head suspended on top.
Smell – Lemony coffee leads. It is still vibrant after more than six weeks in the keg. More like the aroma of grinding coffee beans than a freshly brewed cup. Not quite as aromatically hoppy as I expected from the four ounces of oily Cascade I added near the end of the boil. Nice supporting toasted, almost Butterfinger candy bar, maltiness.
Taste – Crisp, with moderate hop bitterness. Coffee doesn’t dominate, but it is the most prominent flavor. Not roasty or burnt, but still distinctly coffee. The citrusy hops linger into the finish, grapefruit mostly. Not an astoundingly complex or mind-bending beer, but it is balanced, and there are great flavors through each sip
Mouthfeel – The body is not too thick, not too thin, just right for a slightly more flavorful blonde ale. Carbonation is spot on too, prickly without being spritzy.
Drinkability & Notes – A wonderfully pleasant session beer. The coffee is the highlight without dominating. Amazing how few beans can completely change the flavor of so much beer. Next time I’d add a small charge of dry hops just to get the hop aroma up to play with the coffee a bit more. I might also skip the specialty malts to get them out of the way of the coffee and hops. Simplify man.