In mid-January, a few homebrewer friends and I decided to brew a coffee stout. Rather than grab a bag of off-the-shelf, mass-produced coffee, I really wanted to use small-batch, locally roasted beans. After some digging, I came across River City Roasters, which started a few years back in Yorkville and recently opened a second location in downtown Wheaton. After scrolling through their online shop and seeing the wide variety, including a limited series with beans aged in oak barrels with rye whiskey, Wild Turkey or tequila, I knew I had found my roaster.
Within days, I was already sitting down with owners Erich Goepel and Tyler Fivecoat for a private cupping. For those unfamiliar with the term, a “cupping” is an observing of tastes and aromas of different coffee roasts. This was a real treat as everything River City produces is high quality, rich and delicious. Erich is a walking Wikipedia on coffee, so when talking to him about the characteristics of the roast we were searching for and how they would work in our stout, he was able to quickly narrow down our choices. After tasting a handful of roasts and some discussion on what would best complement the malts, chocolate and oatmeal going into our beer, Erich and Tyler blended an exclusive roast for us using Supremo, Kenya and Sumatra beans. Just smelling the bag, I knew it was going to be the perfect blend for our stout.
After brewing, fermenting and a couple weeks of carbonating our bottles, we sampled the Good Morning, Good Morning stout (I’m a huge Beatles fan) and were blown away by how well the coffee aroma came through up front and carried through to the taste and finish, while blending smoothly with the other ingredients.
Last night, we brought a handful of bottles to Erich and Tyler to have them try it out and were pleased to see smiles on their faces after their first sniffs and sips. Not only did we bring beers for them to taste but also a handful of local brewers who were interested in using coffee in their upcoming brews. After another extensive cupping, everyone was abuzz (literally) with ideas for incorporating River City’s roasts into their brewing. In fact, the very next day, Ken McMullen from Aurora’s Hopvine Brewing used their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe roast in a Randall with his Aurora Amber.
If you’re looking to add coffee to any style of beer, head to downtown Wheaton to see Erich and Tyler. Their knowledge and sense of community combined with an enthusiasm for collaboration and out-of-this-world coffee roasts make them the ultimate go-to guys for brewers.