Monday, July 28, 2008

Furthermore Oscura

I mentioned a few weeks back the unveiling of Furthermore's newest beer, the Oscura. Perhaps it isn't fair for me to review it, to be honest. Its almost like brewer Aran Madden got into my head and picked the two things that I love only slightly less than my fiancee (yes, she reads what I post here occasionally): beer and coffee. It's also like he got into my head and knew exactly what I hate about most coffee beers - they're always so darned heavy and rich that you couldn't drink more than one at a time even if you wanted to (note: let's practice what we learned - they are highly drinkable, but not sessionable). Now, I love Founders' Breakfast Stout, or Beer Geek Breakfast, or Central Waters' Brewhouse Coffee Stout, as much as the next person. But man, "breakfast" is right - you don't need to eat for another 4 hours after drinking one of any of those.

In typical Furthermore style, the beer is a mash-up of styles and ingredients (in this case Mexican and Midwestern) used to create something entirely unique (thankfully, not a Chelada).

First, instead of basing the recipe on a thick, heavy imperial stout, Furthermore's is based on the more lightweight California Common Beer, aka Steam Beer, aka Vapor Beer, that is typical in Mexican amber lagers like Dos Equis and Negra Modela. What does that mean, "California Common" or "steam" or "vapor" beer? Well, most lagers are fermented at cold temperatures, around 40 degrees or so. These beers use lager yeast, bottom-fermenting, but ferment them at warm temperatures - like around 60 degrees or so. Why? Well, California and Mexico are not exactly known for their cold temperatures. But, when German immigrants moved there, in California's case in the mid-late-1800s, in Mexico's case a little later, they brought their brewing traditions with them and a stubborn insistence on using German lager yeasts (for a similar ale stubborness you only have to look at the Baltic porter style, which were originally cold-fermented ales). The result is a beer with characteristics of both lagers, a clean distinct flavor profile, and ales, a slightly fruity/ester-y bite.

Then, on top of this obscure (particularly in the Midwest) brewing style Furthermore added something that is both Mexican and Midwestern: flaked maize - a nod both to Mexico's obsession with corn and its role in brewing to help lighten a beer without losing body.

Then, on top of that, is added some coffee from an all-female coffee cooperative in Nicaraqua courtesy of Madison-based coffee importers Just Coffee.

Our coffee beer is more "iced coffee" than "double-mocha-mud", more "summer quencher" than "winter warmer". ... Whole beans are soaked in the beer during cold maturation - the alcohol extracts and retains aromatics that would otherwise be lost to hot water. You want numbers? Well, numbers you shall have: 15 degrees Plato; 37 IBU's; 5.3% ABV.

Furthermore Oscura

Appearance: a deep saddle-brown and thinly bubbled body underneath a one-finger foamy, crema
Aroma: medium roast coffee; some maltiness comes through; unable to detect any hops in the aroma
Flavor: the coffee is the most obvious, but it retains some beeriness - maybe some lightly roasted vienna malts - perhaps some biscuitiness/breadiness (is that a word?!) comes through long after the finish; a hop presence holds up the coffee bitterness, but also helps to clean up the finish a little
Body: medium body with a long alternatingly coffee/hop/malt finish - not a "soft" beer at all.
Drinkability: If you like coffee, and you like beer - well, you can't go wrong; its body keeps the sessionability high, but it seems that only real coffee nuts would want to drink more than one at a time.
Summary: Personally, I find this to be a fun beer - refreshing and interesting it is definitely a break from the same-old, same-old. Served in a tulip glass, or other formal beer glass, it might make an amusing after-dinner drink - instead of asking "who wants coffee?", you can ask "who wants coffee beer?".

1 comment:

  1. It is really, really good. But it's no coffee "note"; it's beer with coffee in it.

    You definitely gotta like coffee.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.