Let’s just get this out there: nothing we do is actually original anymore.
Its all been done before and therefore we must seek out inspiration and make it our own. As brewers we’ve got only four basic ingredients to work with: grain, hops, water & yeast. This is the true power of craft, of partnership and collaboration. Through working together, we can all create something interesting and delicious.
Several years ago when first visiting my wife’s family in Minneapolis, Minnesota, we went to a local brewery called Modist. They have a state of the art brew house with mash filter, just like we do at Elkmont Exchange. At the time, it was the first mash filter I’d ever seen in person. The beers were delicious. They had a beer called First Call, which is a coffee Pilsner. It blew my mind. It combined two of my favorite things, coffee and beer. As a professional brewer who was no stranger to a night shift, the flavor combination hit home. It definitely left an impression on me. I’ve since developed a friendship with one of their brewers and owners named Kale. [Yup, really that’s his name.] He’s visited us at Elkmont Exchange in his travels and has been kind enough to give me tons of professional advice while mastering the learning curve on our mash filter here in Knoxville. Modist makes a wide array of amazing beers and is staffed by genuinely great people doing great things for their city. Extra kudos to Modist for taking home a Bronze medal at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival for this exact coffee Pilsner.
(Wait for it, it’s a long set up but I’m getting there.)
Elkmont Exchange opened in the fall of 2017. We had been delayed by numerous obstacles and opened with only two items available to customers; Light Lager and a West Coast IPA. Since we had 24 taps available to us in our taproom, I felt it was our duty as brewers to open with at least one more option.
During construction and build-out we consumed a lot of coffee and quite a bit of beer as well. That consumption combined with the stress and late nights brought about a flavorful flood of sudsy memories. Coffee. Beer. Beer. Coffee. It was a combination that could ignite a creative wildfire of motivation deep inside. The kind of motivation needed to finally push through and open your brewery to a thirsty public. Skip a meal, pound a beer, down another coffee and grab a hammer. Get to work. It became more than a goal to open, it became an obsession.
Eureka. We had tons of Light Lager, and we had coffee. Sometimes the simplest processes yield the most amazing results. I did a few test pints, combining local cold brew with Light Lager. It was a hit with the staff so we decided to do a full keg of it for opening night. It worked. The flavors clicked with a simple infusion of cold brew coffee in a finished keg of lager beer.
The cold brew coffee we’ve chosen to use is named “Dark Horse” and is roasted locally by Vienna Coffee Company. They are a small-batch specialty coffee roaster in Maryville, Tennessee. They serve a wide range of cafes, coffeehouses, grocers, and restaurants with wholesale coffee and training for staff. In the last few years, they have ramped up their cold brew production, offering ready-to-drink gallons of it to many of their wholesale customers. The coffee we serve in our dining room is also roasted by Vienna Coffee Company. They are an excellent caffeine partner!
Their Dark Horse Cold Brew is a four-bean blend from South and Central America, which they roast themselves. They then allow the coffee to cold brew for around eighteen hours in large brew kettles before filtering it down to 1 micron and bottling it [that means it is super filtered with no grounds]. The final product is a chocolaty, smoky-sweet taste with subtle hints of nuttiness and unmatched smoothness. When combined with our Light Lager it adds a creamy complexity to the beer. The aroma of rich, dark coffee leaps out of the glass even though the beer remains pale yellow in color.
A couple months ago we ran out of Coffee Lager in our taproom and chose not to make more at the time. We’ve heard your cries and we are BRING’IN IT BACK!
Come into the taproom and get a fresh pint of Coffee Lager! – many thanks to Vienna Coffee for providing the coffee and for being such a wonderful local craft partner.