Fall has arrived! And with it? Pumpkin spiced everything…including beer. Trends become trends for a reason though and pumpkin beer is no exception. It’s a trend because it’s damn delicious and loved by many. Our fall seasonal, Freaktoberfest, is a Big Ol’ Pumpkin Ale but that’s not what makes it so popular. It’s the unique addition of espresso beans from Brooklyn’s own Café Grumpy. And this year, Eric and team brewed up an even BIGGER ol’ pumpkin ale to create Super Freak which is brewed with cold brew coffee and comes in at a big ol’ ABV of 9.1% (hashtag take the ride responsibly).
So what’s it like brewing with coffee? What makes the two beers unique? Check out our interview with Cafe Grumpy owner, Caroline Bell and our head brewer, Eric Hernandez!
Café Grumpy: How long have you been brewing coffee in Brooklyn?
We opened our first cafe location in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in 2005 and have been brewing ever since.
Eric H: Have you been to Cafe Grumpy? What’s your go-to from them?
I have been lucky to be able to visit the roastery in Greenpoint and see how they work their magic. My go to is definitely the Heartbreaker espresso, it was the first roast I was introduced to and I’ve been a creature of habit with it.
CG: What types of beans generally work well with beer? Any beans or growing regions that brewers often drift towards when selecting?
In our experience, brewers tend to drift towards Central and South American beans. We roast all specialty grade arabica beans so any could really work well with beer, but a good washed Central American coffee generally works the best – something with an approachable sweet clean chocolaty taste that can shine through in the brew.
EH: What style(s) of beer generally works well when brewing with coffee beans?
Usually darker styles of beer like stouts and porters work well with coffee. The roasted beans complement the higher roasted and kilned malts present in those styles. Recently however, I have been seeing a trend towards using coffee in lighter beer styles which really showcase the subtle differences in the roasts.
CG: What’s the main difference between the beans used in Freaktoberfest and SuperFreak?
For Freaktoberfest, Coney Island Beer used our signature Heartbreaker Espresso blend. This is currently a blend of beans from Guatemala, Colombia and Ethiopia. The espresso blend has a full body with interesting tasting notes of vanilla and caramel which works well with the pumpkin and spice in Freaktoberfest. The flavor is freaky and delicious!
For the limited edition SuperFreak, the brewers at Coney Island Beer used the single origin selection from Rwanda called Nyarusiza. With tasting notes like bing cherry and lemon verbena, the complexity of this coffee really worked well with the beer. We were blown away when we tasted SuperFreak – super unique and delicious.
EH: What’s the main difference between the tasting profile of the two beers?
Both of these beers highlight the differences in the roasts used. Freaktoberfest stays true to the Heartbreaker espresso by using traditional fall spices to complement its slightly sweeter vanilla and caramel profile. We seep these beans in fermentation to slowly extract the flavors over the course of aging, which allows the resulting beer to be very coffee forward while finishing with sweet pumpkin notes.
For Super Freak, when I visited the roastery I was immediately drawn to the intense fruity notes that are present in the Nyarusiza and I wanted to really bring them forward. I made a cold brew concentrate at the brewery and blended that with the beer during fermentation. Combined with lemon peel and brown sugar, the beer is rich, fruity and finishes with smooth molasses notes.
CG: What exactly is cold brew for those of us behind the trend?
Cold brew is a simple, but time-consuming brewing method we use to make our iced coffee. You coarsely grind the coffee beans then submerge them in filtered water. After 14+ hours, you filter the brew and are left with a coffee concentrate that you cut with water then serve over ice. People love cold brew because it tastes delicious straight or with a splash of milk.
EH: What effect does it have on the brewing process and the final outcome?
Using cold brew was a new and exciting process to experiment with in the brewery. It was definitely worth the extra time to focus on the Nyarusiza roast and how it specifically could influence the beer. The concentrated brew was extremely important in making Super Freak so coffee forward, especially with its high alcohol content.
Check the Beer Finder to find 6-packs of Freaktoberfest and and to find Super Freak on tap for a limited time at select spots around Metro NYC.
And don’t forget to check out CafeGrumpy.com to learn more about their mission, to order coffee online and to find them in NY!