Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Blurring the lines between caffeine and alcohol with "Mortal Sin."

It has become my habit after dining to crave an espresso, and since we purchased an Italian-made automatic espresso machine last year for daily home use, good coffee is available at all hours.

Alas, there’s the rub. I’m good for two double espressos a day, and sometimes three, but always before one or two in the afternoon. Regrettably, the caffeine interferes with my sleep if coffee is consumed later in the evening than that, and most of the time, it just isn’t worth it.

Instead, typically I’ll have an after dinner beer, even if a rich, concentrated espresso continues to linger in my mind.

We’ll leave Port wine out of the discussion for now.

What if the coffee and the beer were combined in the same package?

It happens more commonly than you might think.

I can’t remember the first time being introduced to a coffee beer, although it may have been a homebrew long, long ago. It seems to me that David Pierce crafted one at BBC, and Matt Gould at Cumberland Brews (both breweries in Louisville), and there would have been microbrewed versions like Bell’s Java Stout and Bloomington Brewing’s Java Porter available for sampling at Rich O’s, with still others available at various beer festivals stateside – and I distinctly recall brewpubs in both Prague and Vienna serving beer with coffee as an ingredient.

Tonight, following a hearty improvised Italian stew made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, beans and pasta, it occurred to me to reach deep into the beer cupboard for a long-sheltered bottle of Peche Mortel Imperial Coffee Stout, brewed with fair trade coffee by the Brasserie Dieu du Ciel in Montreal, Canada, and the subject of much rabid discussion in beer aficionado circles earlier in 2005.

The name of the beer is French for “mortal sin.”

Believe it or not, this is the first bottle I’ve opened since purchasing an allocated case of twelve in April, and for a wholesale price that has been recently matched in terms of stratospheric heights only by the heavy-duty specialties of the Three Floyds microbrewery in northern Indiana.

All I can say is, “wow.”

Beers truly worth the hype are rare, but if – and only if – you enjoy coffee the way I enjoy coffee, Peche Mortel is amazing, and perhaps worth the deal I’m about to offer you.

Of the essential components of Imperial Stout, a strident black color and a mouth-filling body (9% abv) are the only ones making a showing alongside the strident coffee character, which acts as the surrogate balancing hop in this luxurious ale. As with espresso, it’s overwhelmingly roasty, and leaves a faint acidic tickle going down my throat.

Very, very specialized … and very, very good.

Because four bottles were previously vended, there are only seven left in our present allotment. Once again stressing that if you, or the recipient of your intended coup of a stocking stuffer, don’t like coffee, this is not the beer for you, nevertheless be aware that on Tuesday afternoon, I’ll be making the last seven 22 oz. bottles available at Rich O’s for $20 each (carry-out).

Naturally, I’ll try to acquire more Peche Mortel when the getting’s good. Until then, it’s good to share.

Is the caffeine going to keep me awake tonight?


David said...

I did brew several coffee stouts at the Pub, all with Oatmeal Stout as the base. The first was made with Kroger brand French Roast. The second and third were made with Heine Bros. French Roast form organic fair trade beans provided by Gary Heine. Both were well received with the Heine being my personal favorite. How can you not love a beer called Heine Stout? We bottled one case of 750's for Mr. Heine as a thank you and a Christmas present.

I don't recall the caffeine being an issue.

The New Albanian said...

Thanks for the history of your efforts. I remember them, but not the specifics.

The caffeine was not an issue last night. I slept well, indeed.