Friday, September 23, 2016

Wake Up Call Imperial Coffee Porter – Grand Teton Brewing

                For the third Cellar Reserve release of 2016, Grand Teton Brewing re-released a previously popular beer, the Wake Up Call Imperial Coffee Porter.  I missed the 2011 release of Wake Up Call so, prior to tasting it, I was really looking forward to trying the beer for the first time.  Previous Cellar Reserve offerings from Grand Teton have been excellent, with brew master Rob Mullin and his team really flexing their brewing muscles for these quarterly releases.

                I am a firm believer in drinking seasonally, to match the weather and mood, with the possible exception of pumpkin beers, which I am not a big fan of in general even though I love pumpkin pie and pie spice.  With fall rolling around, it’s time for a cold weather beer, and an Imperial Coffee Porter certainly fits the bill.  Fall isn’t quite the time of year for big, 10+% barleywine with tons of alcohol warmth, nor is it the time for a light hefeweizen, pilsner, or Kölsch.  Again, don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of the styles, but they are best at the appropriate time of the year.  This is the time of the porters, non-barrel aged stouts, and Ambers.  There is just something about malty beers during the fall and winter months, almost like a comfort food.

                Wake Up Call Imperial Coffee Porter then, would seem to fit right in line with the full flavors that belong in a good fall beer without teetering too far into the alcohol warmth that is practically required in the cold months of December through February.  Be sure to check out the Brewmaster Rob Mullin’s insights into Wake Up Call just before my review!

They Say:

Wake Up Call Imperial Coffee Porter has a distinct and robust coffee flavor that blends harmoniously with the roasted malts. Caramel, chocolate, and black malts give this ale its dark color and overtones of caramel and a cocoa-like sweetness. Only very gently hopped, the addition of coffee shines through, providing a delicious accent to this brew.

We used well over a pound per barrel of Moonshot Espresso beans from Cafe Ibis Coffee Roasting Company in Logan, Utah. This classic three bean blend has loads of caramel with a fine sugar sweetness and a smoky but smooth finish. While the focus has been on finding the perfect mate for this seasonal porter, it is no coincidence that the choice of beans also supports social justice and sustainable agriculture.

Cafe Ibis is a locally owned and operated 40-year-old award-winning Green Business. Sometimes viewed as being obsessively passionate about the coffees they roast, this custom coffee roasting house proudly offers organic, Fair Trade and Smithsonian Bird Friendly certified coffees, the industry’s highest standards. Reuter’s Triple Pundit called it “The World’s Most Sustainable Coffee.” Over the years, Newsweek Magazine, The Wine Spectator, and Sunset Magazine have all added to the chorus singing praises to the remarkable cup quality of Cafe Ibis Coffee.

Porter was the first industrial beer, brewed for the laborers of England’s Industrial Revolution. Technological advances of the 18th century—such as the thermometer and hydrometer—allowed brewers to refine the brewing process. These changes allowed for brewers to create consistent batches of beer, and the beer was nearly always porter.

The addition of coffee to porter is an even more recent creation, with craft brewers of the past 30 years embracing the enchantment that coffee makes to the flavor and body of dark ales.
The coffee flavors in this ale pair exceptionally well with meaty entrées: drink this Imperial Porter with grilled steak, barbecued spare ribs, or Portobello mushrooms sautéed with soy sauce. The toast and chocolate-like flavors of the dark malt complement sweet confections. Any dessert that you would take with coffee will be a fine accompaniment to this ale. We recommend tiramisu, hazelnut scones, and German chocolate cake.

If stored in a cool, dark location, this beer should stand up to the test of time. The roasted coffee and rich maltiness will mingle together and mellow with age.

Original Gravity (Plato): 20.0˚
International Bitterness Units: 40
Alcohol by Volume: 7.5%
Color (Lovibond): 26.0º

Brewmaster Rob Mullin adds:

                Wake Up Call is another of my favorites, largely because of the addition of espresso from Caffe Ibis in Logan, Utah.  Sally Sears and her late husband, Randy Wirth, started Caffe Ibis in 1985, dedicated to roasting the best possible organic, fair-trade and bird-friendly coffee possible, in a sustainable and community-minded way. My bride sold Ibis coffee ten years ago when she was partner with three other women in a great little global-food restaurant in Driggs, our county seat. The brewery's had a wholesale account with Ibis ever since. It's the coffee we drink here and in most of our homes. One of my favorite ways to prepare coffee is as cold-brew, and that's how we made the espresso for Wake Up Call. I think the cold-brew gets all the flavor of the coffee without the bitterness, which is perfect for a beer addition. The last time we made Wake Up Call it aged very well. The cold-brew method probably helps in that regard. By the way, I've calculated the Wake Up Call has about a quarter of the caffeine of the same volume of strong coffee.

I Say:

                Wake Up Call Imperial Coffee Porter pours an opaque, deep inky black with a thick, creamy latte colored head with moderate rocky breakup. The head holds very good retention (~5 min.) and leaves behind large splotchy lacing on the glass.  Visually, Wake Up Call looks like a good imperial porter should, nice and dark.  Dark, charred malts waft out of the glass during the poor.  A low level of perceptible charred malt sharpness transitions nicely into an excellent dark roast coffee aroma, with notes of dark chocolate and caramel.  The dark chocolate notes from the espresso beans and malts round out the back end and present a very tempting beer.

                Slightly smoky charred malts lead in the flavor with the coffee adding the excellent dark roast characteristics of baker’s chocolate and light caramel.  The coffee, while present and enjoyable, lingers in the background in comparison to the full maltiness of Wake Up Call.  A charred malt and dark roast coffee back end rounds out to a lingering charred malt finish.  Oddly, and almost counterintuitively, the charred notes fade and become almost imperceptible as the beer warms with Wake Up Call taking on sweet, chocolatey, malt notes as the beer nears room temperature.  Full bodied, with a moderate level of carbonation, Wake Up Call has a great mouth-feel for the coming chilly nights.
                Wake Up Call Imperial Coffee Porter is a very good beer that is well suited for a release in the Cellar Reserve series.  While I enjoyed the beer, I would have preferred that the coffee be a little more prominent.  That might, however, have led to more astringency and a less enjoyable beer.  So, as with most beers it is best to enjoy Wake Up Call Imperial Porter for what it is rather than bringing in preconceived notions of what it should be.  Sometimes a great beer is just a great beer, and that’s something that I sometimes have to remind myself of when I start to nitpick.  If you are able to find Wake Up Call on a shelf near you, it’s definitely a beer to hunt down and buy.  Heck, buy a few, one for now and a couple for later; you surely won’t be disappointed!

                Thanks again to Grand Teton Brewing Brewmaster Rob Mullin for providing additional thoughts on Wakeup Call!  That’s all for today, check back soon for another review!

Happy Drinking!