In 2011, a friend gave me a bottle of barrel-aged imperial stout brewed with coffee and cocoa nibs. I loved it but unfortunately at the time, Big Bad Baptist from Epic Brewing Company in Utah was not available in Indiana or Michigan. Since then, Epic Brewing has added both states to their distribution.
One of the remarkable aspects of this beer, and the brewery, is that they don’t always brew it the same way, and they have a record of all 68 batches at their website. Usually it is the coffee that differs, but also the different bourbon or whiskey barrels that they use impart unique flavors to each batch. Because of this there has been slight variances in ABV from 10 to 13 percent.
Now, Epic is taking this beer to the next level by partnering with 10 exceptional coffee roasters from across the nation. According to Epic, when they are crafting a beer, “hops are not just hops and coffee is not just coffee.” This latest project, Son of a Baptist, will create a beer that showcases just how unique and special coffee beans really are.
Son of a Baptist is an imperial stout, but it is not barrel aged like its father, Big Bad Baptist. Instead, its flavor profile was designed to highlight the complex and often unique flavors of small batch coffees.
Epic stated that, “Instead of sourcing a coffee that would play well in a beer we sought out creative and innovative roasters, then asked them which beans they’re passionate about.” Each resulting release of Son of a Baptist is vastly different depending on the coffee selected. Some are fruity and sweet with notes of jam and chocolate, others are rich and earthy with a big roasted finish. Each limited release is numbered and stamped and will return to the Roaster’s home market where the beer and the coffee can be sampled side by side.
“Son of a Baptist shares some similarity to Big Bad Baptist, but its purpose is very different. Son of a Baptist was built from the ground up to showcase coffee. By simplifying the malt bill and removing the complexity that barrel aging adds, we were able to let the beans shine through,” explained brew master Kevin Crompton. “Initially we were looking for coffees similar to those we’ve used in Big Bad Baptist but the recent trend toward lighter roasted beans with wonderful berry and tobacco notes inspired us to seek out artisanal coffee roasters.”
Batch number nine (8.4 percent ABV) is brewed using Milky Way coffee beans from Rowster Coffee in Grand Rapids, Mich. I contacted Stephen Curtis at Rowster Coffee to find out more.
It is a blend of three coffee origins. While it switches seasonally, and the farms also will change, they typically will use a darker roasted coffee from Guatemala, a medium-roasted coffee from Central America (such as Colombia), and a natural/dry process coffee from Ethiopia. “We have worked with, and continue to work with, a fair number of breweries who have gravitated towards our coffee for their delicious beers, and we have been honored to work with each of them,” said Curtis.
The brewery made a deal to brew an additional batch of Son of a Baptist with beans that were aged in tequila barrels by Hotbox Roasters in Longmont, Colo. Each of the 13 batches was brewed in quantities of 10 to 30 barrels and have been distributed in draft form only to their respective markets to be tapped sometime this spring. The long term plan involves brewing larger batches in the fall to be distributed in 12-ounce cans.
Below is a list of the other coffee roasters and markets for the initial draft release:
- Stauf’s Coffee Roasters, Columbus, Ohio: Stauf’s is a micro-roaster in Columbus that is passionate about coffee. According to their website, they use the highest quality arabica beans and roast exclusively on gas-fired coffee roasters.
- Novo Coffee, Denver: Founded in 2002 by Jake, Herb and Joseph Brodsky, Novo Coffee states on their website that, “Coffee is commonplace, yet a truly great cup reveals a complex process.” And that complex process shines at Novo, where they roast green coffee beans in beautiful vintage Vittoria machines and offer some of the most distinctive coffees available in today’s marketplace.
- Red e Café, Portland, Ore.: Founded by Mindy Farley and Keith Miller, Red e Café features nuanced roasts that highlight complexity. Epic Brewing says they fell in love with some of Red’s lesser known African coffees, especially the Rwandan Buremera picked for the Oregon batch.
- Cultivar Coffee, Dallas: Cultivar Coffee Roasters was founded by Jonathan Meadows and Nathan Shelton in 2009. Cultivar is firm in their commitment to socioeconomic responsibility, obsessed with process and quality and committed to sourcing only the best coffee they can get their hands on.
- Caffe Ibis, Logan, Utah: Caffe Ibis was founded in 1976 by Randy Wirth and Sally Sears and is a family owned and operated award winning artisan custom coffee roasting house. They focus on specialty grade, mountain grown and mountain roasted certified organic, fair trade and shade grown coffee.
- Conduit Coffee, Seattle: According to Conduit’s website, they provide coffee that “is ethically and sustainably sourced, roasted kindly, and delivered locally by bicycle.”
- EVP Coffee, Madison, Wis.: Short for “Etes-vous prets?” — French for “Are you ready?” — EVP is committed to social responsibility first and foremost, “Our intention since we opened has been to serve all people beautifully, and in the spirit of kindness and love and to serve our community with honesty and accountability.” They roast their beans using a Sivetz Fluid Bed Roaster, which uses fresh hot air to roast coffee rather than a heated surface used by traditional barrel roasters.
- Snake River Roasting Company, Jackson Hole, Wyo.: Snake River Roasting Co. is committed to using certified organic coffees from some of the finest coffee producers in the world. They roast in the Northern Italian style in small batches, to bring forth each bean’s natural flavor complexity, which has resulted in national recognition for their coffees.
- Misha’s Coffee, Alexandria, Va.: Misha’s website says it best: “Some things deserve time, care and attention to detail. At Misha’s, we think coffee is one of those things. Our beans are hand-picked, hand-roasted in small batches every day, by a master (and mistress) roaster. All those steps really do make the best coffee you’ll ever have. That’s not hyperbole — it’s true.”
Bottles of Big Bad Baptist, as well as other brands from Epic, are currently on retail shelves throughout Indiana and Michigan.