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Unique brew review: Modern Times Bourbon Barrel-Aged Coffee Black House

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Modern Times Black House Stout with bourbon barrel-aged coffee beans.

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There are plenty of unique beers out on the market. Look no further than Dogfish Head’s Choc Lobster as evidence that the imagination is the only limit on things that can, but sometimes probably shouldn't be brewed. It’s becoming exceedingly rare to see something unique in the process of brewing beer, but Modern Times Beer did just that when they made a batch of their Black House Coffee Stout with bourbon barrel-aged coffee beans.

The standard version of Black House features coffee roasted in-house by Modern Times’ “Roast-Face Killah,” Amy Krone. To make the coffee for Black House, Krone takes green coffee beans and roasts them to the exact specifications for Modern Times’ oatmeal coffee stout. For the barrel-aged coffee beans, the process is slightly different.

From Modern Times Founder Jacob McKean’s Blog:

“Here’s the basic premise: green (unroasted) coffee beans are extremely porous, and consequently, pick up aromas and flavors from their environment easily. Quality-focused coffee importers and roasters are hyper-sensitive to this issue, and go to great lengths to ensure that their green beans are not exposed to undesirable aromas during shipping and storage. But what if you WANTED to add aroma and flavor to green beans? Well, you could, just by putting the beans in an environment where those aromas are prevalent and letting them sit there.”

Basically, McKean and company take the green coffee beans and age them in bourbon barrels. This process allows the beans themselves to pick up flavor from the barrels, and produces a beer that tastes and smells of bourbon without the typical booziness of a barrel-aged beer. By McKean’s estimation, Modern Times is the only brewery that does this. They don’t can this beer, so your best bet is to catch it on tap at the Lomaland Fermentorium.

Beer and coffee are brothers from another mother. Both are created by combining a roasted base material –beans for coffee and barley for beer—with hot water in a process we call brewing. Both played a significant role in the advancement of human society, and both have an army of mustachioed hipsters claiming they were drinking it way before it was cool. Every so often, someone comes up with a new way of combining them, and that’s pretty cool too.

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