If you’ve been hanging around the CQ tasting room for a while, you’ve probably noticed that we aren’t big on IPAs. And by “aren’t big on IPAs,” we mean that those three little letters are notably absent from our tap list. We’ve only made a beer that was actually called an IPA once in our nearly three-year history. Until now, that is. Not only have we suddenly made an IPA, we made a double IPA.
Cue the foreboding music. Brace for mass hysteria (cats and dogs living together…).
Hey! Don’t worry, the sky isn’t falling quite yet. Sure, we made a double IPA. But we didn’t really mean to. The brainstorming that lead us to brew Tropic Blunder didn’t begin with hops, which are steal the show in any great DIPA--it began with coffee.
It’s important to note that Tropic Blunder isn’t just a DIPA. We also added coffee and pineapple, because it just wouldn’t be a CQ beer if we didn’t add a little something extra.
Dan had an idea that he wanted to brew a beer with coffee that would be very different from Sweet Henrietta, our sessionable coffee milk stout-slash-breakfast beer. Zocalo, our go-to local roasters, introduced us to a beautiful Ethiopian bean that was a little fruity and a little earthy, and the idea to make a different kind of coffee beer took root. Specifically, a pale coffee beer.
The combination of ingredients in Tropic Blunder may sound completely random, but there was a LOT of experimenting that led us here. Menagerie members may remember one of the earlier experiments, a combination of coffee and saison. It was definitely missing something, so we kept tinkering.
The breakthrough came thanks to a cocktail that combined rye whiskey, apple brandy, benedictine, lemon, pineapple gum, and coffee. This combination of flavors worked, and Dan enlisted the aid of his wife Melissa (who is something of a cocktail and flavor genius) in creating a simplified version with just rye, coffee, and pineapple at home.
Instead of using a rye whiskey beer--which we actually did happen to have on tap--we decided to match rye with rye grains and added coffee plus pineapple to our rye pale ale. It was almost perfect, but needed just a little more body and bite to balance the coffee and pineapple. And imperial-strength version of our pale ale was the goldilocks beer: Just right.
The finished beer is delicious in ways we hardly expected. We wouldn't have bothered brewing it if we didn't think it would be tasty, but the combination of flavors both balance and emphasize each other--the earthiness of the rye works so, so well with the richness of the coffee, and the pineapple pops and brings out the most tropical flavors of the hops (we ended up using Mosaic and Citra, in case you're curious). Paradoxically, it makes both the hopheads and staunch no-IPA drinkers around our tasting room happy. It's just that good.