With the seemingly endless supply of new coffee stouts coming to market, somebody, somewhere had to be innovating in the opposite direction. The hunt was on for coffee complimented by beer, not the other way around. At Elk Mountain Hops Farm in Northern Idaho, a lead brewer for Goose Island Beer company confirmed that two espresso beer drinks have already been created in a partnership with Intelligentsia Coffee: the Bourbon County Macchiato and the Bourbon County Black Eye.
The Speciality Coffee Association of America (SCAA) reported a 51 percent market share for specialty cups of coffee in 2014, passing non-specialty cups for the first time ever. SCAA's data points to the growing segment of craft and speciality coffee in the midst of another beverage category experiencing ridiculous growth: craft beer. In the same year, the Brewers Association reported that the craft beer industry had practically doubled in total market share in just three years from 5.7% in 2011 to 11% 2014, totaling nearly 22 million barrels, or 44 million kegs bro.
So it should be no surprise when a former craft behemoth turned Anheuser-Busch golden ticket, Goose Island Beer Company looked to partner with Intelligentsia Coffee to shake things up. The company partnership actually extends back 13 years, most famously recognized for its Bourbon County Coffee Stout. But here I was, at Elk Mountain Hops Farm in Idaho, practically pleading Goose Island's Brewing Innovation Manager, Mike Siegel, for any hints toward a beer-influenced coffee.
Siegel confirmed a coffee radler had been created by Jay Cunningham and Jesse Raub of Intelligentsia that included 3 oz of cold-brewed concentrate of the Kurimi Ethiopia Single Origin and 9 oz of the Goose's 312 wheat ale.
"I don't think anyone is making espresso and beer drinks with great espresso equipment, carefully filtered water and really well trained baristas," said Cunningham. "Add to the fact that we had a keg of Bourbon County [Stout] to use too, it just doesn't happen very often."
We were getting closer. That was the first instance I'd ever heard of combining coffee and beer, versus coffee being part of the brewing process. But then Cunningham confirmed that multiple beer espresso drinks had been created in tandem with the radler. The White Rushing aka Bourbon County Macchiato (pictured above) included 2 oz of Bourbon County Stout, 1 oz of Black Cat Espresso and 1 oz of steamed milk. And finally the Black Eye aka Bourbon County Black Eye included 3 oz of Bourbon County Stout and 1 oz of fresh Black Cat espresso.
So they do exist. But to my knowledge, the drinks only exists during special events between Goose Island and Intelligentsia. There's also an event series called Uppers & Downers by Good Beer Hunting, an event built on the combination of beer and coffee. This has so much promise.
More and more the drink two categories are collapsing into each other. Millions of corporate hours and dollars have likely been poured into the research and strategy towards Starbuck's beer and wine program now at 70 stores nationwide. You bet there's going to be a craft response. With the abundance of new craft breweries and artisanal coffeehouses, the opportunity for a marketing collaboration without leeching consumers from each other is to large for them pass up.
Mark my words, beer espresso drinks are coming.