Inspired by the Ballast Point Brewing Company’s take on the holy union of coffee and beer, Victory at Sea, as well as our own homebrewed success along this path, when I saw that Portland’s BridgePort Brewing Co. had joined the fray, I couldn’t resist.
The difference in the two craft brewery beers, I believe, is right there in the name: Café Negro Coffee Infused Porter. According to BridgePort’s website, in order to “retain subtle coffee aromas otherwise lost during boil and fermentation,” the coffee is basically added, or infused, after the beer is done. The Victory at Sea, on the other hand, merely added the vanilla post-fermentation—a completely unnecessary step in my opinion, but that’s another story.
I don’t know if adding the coffee this way really gained BridgePort anything; when we made our excellent Luna Blend Imperial Coffee Stout, we added the French-pressed coffee post-boil, but before fermentation. We ended up with just as complex java flavors as BridgePort has. To each his own, I suppose.
In the plus column, like Ballast Point, BridgePort worked with local coffee roasters to develop a blend that would shine through after bottling, shipping, etc. Coffee is the first thing you notice after pouring this dark brown porter. It almost smells like a café au lait, or the way a Coffee Nips candy tastes—either a cartoon version of coffee, or the perfect mid-roast blend, I can’t decide. There is also a nice hop finish to this that plays off of the bitter notes in the coffee quite well.
The porter throws a small head, receding to a resilient khaki-colored ring riding the meniscus of my pint all the way down. The carbonation is quite alive, disguising the fact that the overall mouthfeel is a bit thin for this style. On the other hand, I could, and have, had a couple of these and not feel overly full.