Allagash Brewing Company | Barrel & Bean
When you bookend your day with drinks, it’s important to have quality ones. Coffee in the morning? Grind up something fresh to kick-start a productive day. Beer at night? That first crack open that has your taste buds thanking you after that productive day. Rinse and repeat.
Barrel & Bean from Allagash Brewing Company combines the best of both of the coffee and beer worlds. And when one thinks of a coffee beer, it’s common to think of a stout. That’s my first thought. But Barrel & Bean takes a different approach to a coffee-blended beer: the result is a combination of a Belgian-style golden ale aged in bourbon barrels with cold-brewed coffee from a local coffee roaster, Speckled Ax.
As many good modern collaboration stories go, this one began with an online exchange. According to Brett Willis, marketing specialist at Allagash Brewing, the story goes a little something like this: “Jason, our brewmaster, was a fan of Speckled Ax coffee (actually called Matt’s Coffee back then). Jason emailed their “info” email account asking to see their roasting process.” As it turns out, Matt, the founder of Speckled Ax, was already a big fan of Allagash.
“So the two met up to talk about the possibility of using Speckled Ax coffee with Curieux, our bourbon barrel-aged Tripel,” said Willis. For context, Curieux was the beer that kicked off Allagash’s barrel-aging endeavors. Curieux is the result of Tripel aged in bourbon barrels for seven weeks, and then blended with a portion of fresh Tripel.
“Jason described the flavors he was looking for and Matt brought out a bunch of different coffee options that he suspected would work well with the beer. A team of brewers got together and tried all of the coffee/beer variations and ended up on the coffee we use now: a single-origin, naturally processed Ethiopian bean,” explained Willis.
Before coffee meets beer, the aging process begins. The Belgian-style golden ale, Tripel, is aged in bourbon barrels for nearly two months. The barrels are emptied and within just a couple of days, the Tripel makes its way into the barrels.
Barrel & Bean pours a deep golden hue with mild carbonation. At 10% ABV, it does taste a little on the heavier side, so this is a beer to sip on, not crush. As you sip, you’ll notice flavors of dark berry, caramel, bourbon, and of course, coffee. Barrel & Bean became a year-round beer in Allagash’s lineup as of February 2018.