It was inevitable. With craft breweries sprouting like weeds across the lawn that is North Texas, sooner or later two would brew beers that would end up going head-to-head in the marketplace at the same time.
One might argue this has already happened. Both Community Beer Company and Lakewood Brewing produce Vienna lagers, and have since they opened. Many local breweries make various versions and strengths of IPA. However, the range available with modern IPAs given the number of hops flavors and variations of recipes make them more complimentary of each other than direct competition. And Vienna lager is more a backup role in the portfolio rather than the lead.
In the last half of January, both Deep Ellum Brewing and Community Beer Company each brewed a coffee beer -- that is, beer either blended or infused with coffee provided by two independent Dallas coffee shops. Deep Ellum released their Oak Cliff Coffee Ale, made with coffee from Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters, and Community released their Ascension Coffee Porter, made with coffee from Ascension, the new coffee bistro located just behind the Meddlesome Moth. Perhaps the contrast is more striking simply by the coincidence of their appearance.
Yet these two brewers approached their respective coffee beers very differently. Deep Ellum's brewer Jeremy Hunt wanted to make a beer that paired well with fresh, local coffee, and he brewed up a recipe for an oatmeal brown ale before ever introducing the coffee aspect. Consulting with Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters, they found a Panamanian bean that worked best and blended a batch of brewed coffee with that of the beer. The result is a slate-colored beer that looks like a porter with a strong nose of dark roast. The coffee comes through immediately in the taste, and if you allow the beverage to warm just slightly you can begin to pick up the malt backbone of the beer. The flavor rounds out very well with both sides complementing each other in this 7.5% ABV beer, ending with just a hint of lactic sweetness.
In contrast, Community's brewer Jamie Fulton brewed a batch of a classic Baltic porter and infused coffee directly into the brew kettle. He chose a dark Sumantran roast from nearby Ascension, and the volcanic soil of the bean pairs just as well with the porter as Deep Ellum's version did with their oatmeal brown. (Baltic porters are actually dark, rich lagers with origins in the Baltic states of Northern Europe, a much darker and stronger beer than classic English porters.) Community's beer is jet black with a much more pronounced coffee nose, and the 6.8% ABV base beer melds into more of a dry espresso nature that remains the same throughout the glass.
Which is better? Too close to call. Much may depend on your coffee choices rather than your preference for beer or brewers. If you take your coffee black, you may prefer Community's Ascension Coffee Porter but if you dress your coffee with sugar and dairy/creamer (or if you're an iced coffee fan), you might lean more toward Deep Ellum's Oak Cliff Coffee Ale. Even when competing breweries release the "same" beer style, there is still a lot of room for variations.
Correction: Community's Ascension Coffee Porter has its coffee addition blended with the beer after fermentation, not in the brew kettle.
Availability: Deep Ellum's Oak Cliff Coffee Ale can be found on taps all around Dallas; Community's Ascension Coffee Porter is currently only available at their tap room, soon to be released to the wider market. Deep Ellum's beer will likely be a winter seasonal but Community will probably produce their beer year-round.