Scott Trainor visits Cavalier Brewing to find out more about their upcoming collaboration with Proud Mary, a Black Coffee IPA.
It had just gone 10am on a Monday morning and I was faced with a dilemma. I’d just arrived at the Cavalier Brewery and co-owner Heath Shirtcliffe had asked me if I’d “like something to drink.”
“Perhaps I should ask for a coffee,” I thought to myself. “It is still a little early for booze.”
“But,” I reasoned, “I am visiting a brewery so it wouldn’t be inappropriate to have a beer.”
Before I could form an answer Shirtcliffe handed me a glass. “Here, try this. It’s our new Black Coffee IPA.”
Beer and coffee, dilemma solved!
The team at Cavalier are a collaborative bunch. Since launching their brewery five years ago, co-owners Heath Shirtcliffe, Steve Martin and Andrew Cronin have developed a division of labour that allows them to each focus on one key area of business.
Shirtcliffe heads up the marketing and sales, Cronin focuses on the brewing and production side of things, while Martin is “the glue that holds everything together,” says Cronin. “There aren’t too many breweries around with multiple owners all as involved in the business as we are. Maybe Two Birds, but I can’t think of many others.” And judging by the quality of beer they’re producing, it seems to be a winning formula.
The guys are backed up by a team of three, head brewer Miryam Piechocinski, assistant brewer Andrew Yarnton, and Victoria sales manager Glenn Healey.
“When we design a beer, we get together with our brewers and Glenn, and everyone has a say,” says Cronin.
Black IPA has only been a recognised style in beer judging guidelines for a handful of years, making it a relative newcomer in the world of beer styles. But that hasn’t stopped Cavalier from completely re-interpreting and re-engineering it with the addition of coffee. Lots of coffee.
The decision to brew a coffee-infused Black IPA called for yet more collaboration, this time with Collingwood’s Proud Mary coffee roasters. Proud Mary has done a few collaboration brews with Cavalier before, so when Cavalier decided they wanted to do another one, “Prouds” didn’t hesitate to get on board.
To create room in the beer for the coffee, a decision was made to substitute the roasted barley, which would typically be used in such a beer, with a portion of Midnight Wheat malt. Where roast barley can have a full, bitter and astringent taste, “the wheat malt finishes much cleaner and avoids this. It just works better with the IPA flavour profile,” says Cronin.
The wheat malt really lightens the body and creates more room for the depth and complexity of the coffee to come through and complement rather than compete with the malt.
To decide on the type of coffee to use, the Cavalier team ventured down to Proud Mary’s for a cupping session.
Under the guidance of coffee roaster Ash Officer and coffee buyer Mike Sullivan, they settled on a single origin, natural process, Red Bourbon coffee from Costa Rica. Proud Mary had 350 litres made up and delivered it to the brewery in kegs.
The coffee was roasted in six batches. This was partly because the 30kg roast was too large for a single batch, but it also allowed them to roast “a couple that were nice and fruity and a couple with more depth”, according to Sullivan.
The result is a cold brew coffee with a complexity that complements the subtle sweetness of the malt, and a fruitiness that complements the mix of Warrior, Mosaic, Chinook and Centennial hops which provide that classic IPA profile. “It’s a mix that you wouldn’t expect to work as well as it does,” says a gleeful Cronin.
Equally as important as the batch roasting was the grind used in the cold brew. “We use a special E.K. grinder,” says Officer. “It’s a spice grinder from a deli, but its particle dust is so consistent, which really improves the flavour of the coffee.”
Another challenge that had to be overcome was determining how much coffee to add to the beer. 350 litres had been brewed, but nobody knew if it was enough, too little, or too much. A blending and tasting session was called for.
Over the course of two hours on a Monday morning, the team from Cavalier and Proud Mary, ably assisted by this lucky Froth writer, created and compared different blends in search of the elusive ‘optimal ratio’. First up a ratio of 10% coffee was added to the beer. It was good, but what if there was an even better ratio? The only way to find out was trial and error.
Iterations of 15% and 20% coffee were tried and quickly discounted. The best results were somewhere between 10% and 13% coffee, which still seems like an insane amount of coffee.
It was agreed a blind tasting would resolve the matter once and for all. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a double blind tasting as a transcription error meant that the chief blender (who shall remain nameless) was unable to determine which sample corresponded to which blend. Despite everyone reaching agreement on which sample they liked, we had no idea which blend it actually was.
Finally, a consensus was reached however: “Add it all!”
The Black Coffee IPA will be launched at Beermash in Collingwood on Friday July 15 from 5-8pm. There will also be some sweet deals and giveaways at the launch.
- Cavalier will shout you a free schooner of the new beer on arrival
- $20 six packs and $80 cartons for sale
- $20 growler fills and $10 squealer fills
- Plenty of Cavalier giveaways
- Range of Cavalier beers on tap (all $6 a schooner!)