Our hometown, San Diego, is lucky to host one of the craft beer industry’s most decorated and respected breweries, AleSmith. The brewery is best known for its adventurous Speedway Stout, a big, bold, and French-roast-black beer. AleSmith has long treated their Speedway Stout as a laboratory, injecting it with flavors as outlandish as licorice, Nutella, and Lapsang tea. Often, these special releases are collaborations. For us, a new micro-roastery, tapping into that world just made sense.
“I had drinks with Bill Batten (brewer extraordinaire over at AleSmith) and some friends one night and discussed a possible coffee collaboration with their Speedway Stout,” says Mike Arquines, our head roaster. “I threw out different options of coffee varieties, lots, etc., and we both agreed that the Jamaica Blue Mountain’s flavor characteristics would be perfect if, one, we could source some high-grade JBM beans and, two, roast it precisely to the flavor profile they were trying to achieve. Challenge accepted.”
After weeks of research, we sourced Jamaica Blue Mountain beans from the Mavis Bank Estate. More than twenty roast levels were created, ranging from extremely light to past second crack, to ensure a thorough examination of the nuances and flavor profile, and, most importantly, to adhere and abide by AleSmith’s strict standards.
“Luckily, they all unanimously chose the one we all thought was the winner.”
After an intense cupping session at Mostra, four roast levels were decided on and brought to AleSmith for its owner, Peter Zien, and the brewers to cup. “We had our favorite out of the four, but we decided not to say anything until after they tried the coffees for themselves,” Mike says. “Luckily, they all unanimously chose the one we all thought was the winner.” Chemex- and cold-brewed concentrated versions were made to give AleSmith a comparison of flavor, acidity, and body. Eventually they decided to go with the cold brew.
“We felt cold brewing was a great choice because not only is it full-flavored and concentrated, but it is also about seventy percent less acidic than hot-brewed coffee,” Mike says. “Beer is already acidic, so adding more acidity would make it really unbalanced. Cold brewing allowed us to capture the origin flavor profile that comes with a lighter roast without the brightness and acidic qualities that can come out with hot brewing.” Finally, after dosing and mixing different ratios of cold brew to stout, after numerous tastes and palate balancing acts, a final ratio was found. Mike says it gave him and Peter goosebumps. “Definitely not a bad thing!”
Production roasting for this collaboration was “an act of labor and love,” says RJ Ocubillo, Mostra’s operations officer and production roaster. “We roasted 150 pounds of JBM one pound at a time to maintain quality control,” he says. “There is nothing worse than roasting twenty-five pounds at a time and something potentially going wrong in the middle of it. With a bean that is a hit or miss in terms of sourcing, we didn’t want to take that chance.”
Production roasting was not the end of it. We decided to cold-brew the coffee ourselves. “Cold brewing ourselves allowed us to control our product from start to finish,” Mike says. “We wanted the coffee to be represented in the way that Mostra would have done it. By cold brewing ourselves, we were able to give AleSmith a finished product for them to seamlessly blend with their Speedway Stout.”
How did this turn out in the end? Let’s just say that in the online sale, customers were only allowed to buy four bottles. All 3,000 bottles were sold in eighteen minutes.
“It’s amazing,” says Mike. “I have been a fan of AleSmith for a long time now. Having the chance to be part of one of their Speedway Stout variants is a dream come true and an amazing opportunity for our company.”
The collaboration was extremely meaningful because it allowed us to be a part of the craft beer community, a community with deep roots in San Diego. AleSmith is one of the most respected craft beer breweries in the world, so to have our high-quality coffee and their high-quality beer come together is an absolute reward.
—Beverly Magtanong is a co-founder of Mostra Coffee in San Diego.