Today the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, thanks to the coverage of Bob Batz Jr., had an article on coffee beers.
Batz Jr.'s (Is that the right way to say that? From now on I'll just get friendly and call him Bob) writings are an always-interesting coverage of the region, with obvious emphasis on the Pittsburgh metro. Bob's always the one to turn to for the latest happenings in the area and he's often the soul source of heads-upage for those events and beers that receive little fanfare otherwise.
Now, back to coffee beers.
The article mentions three coffee beers readily available in the area: Atwater Block Vanilla Java Porter, Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout and Bell's Java Stout. I have been fortunate enough to try them all, two in bottles and the Lagunitas in a growler from Fatheads. Of the three, I liked the Lagunitas the best, it is true to its namesake offering a nice dark roasty flavor, a creaminess much like the crema of steamed milk and a nise sweetness to balanace it all out. However, my favorite coffee beers are not among that list.
That honor falls to two beers, actually. North Country Brewing's Vanilla Coffee Porter (not in the BA system) and Schlafly's Kaldi's Coffee Stout. The first beer I was lucky enough to happen to be there when they had it on and after a taste I knew it was destined to fill my growler (I was a little prepared). The balance of the vanilla with the coffee on that one was perfect. The second beer I was lucky enough to have spirited to me by a friend who lives in St Louis, in fact I got two sixpacks of that one. The Schlafly is made with toddied espresso from the local Kaldi's coffee shop and its obvious with one sip that it is espresso in there. It's dark, slightly bitter, complex and not too sweet.
Bob goes on to mention a couple brewpubs that also have a coffee beer: Red Star's Coffee Porter (Which I missed. Have I ever mentioned how annoying it is when brewpubs have out-of-date or functionally useless websites? End rant, another time...) and Church Brew Works' Espresso Stout.
If you are a fan of good coffee and a fan of good beer (Luckily, I am both) seek these ones out. They are a tasty to way to get your caffeine fix.