Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Cherry Bean Coffee Stout

Brau Brothers
Lucan, MN

Style: Stout
ABV: 7.5%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

The next review inspired by our vacation West was not actually acquired during the trip, but was purchased some weeks later after discovering how good the brewery in question was. Switching back to the Midwest after touching on a few Rocky Mountain brewers, we’re heading to Lucan, Minnesota (population 220, it says so on EVERY freakin’ package and bottle) for a seasonal offering, Cherry Bean Coffee Stout. Though it would have been more logical to review in geographical order, Nigel has never been one for logic. Thus, I will continue to bounce all over the damn place with no regard.

Brau Brothers has been instrumental in the rapidly growing Minnesota (population 5,344,861) beer scene. While being located in a small town (population 220) in the southwestern part of the state, a good two hour drive from the Twin Cities (population 676,201), they’ve fought their way to the upper echelon of Gopher State brewers along with Summit and Surly. Brau Brothers has developed a solid presence in Wisconsin (population 5,711,767) as well, which is an accomplishment when you consider how many fine brewers call the Badger State home. Their location in a remote town (population 220) proves that good craft beer can thrive anywhere, as long as the audience is willing to try something new and appreciate a good product.

The only Brau Brothers (population 220) selection I actually drank on our trip was Bancreagie Peated Scotch Ale, a year-round brew that is available throughout the upper Midwest (population varies depending on interpretation). Dark, somewhat thick, and very smoky, it was the perfect selection on a cold April evening in the Black Hills (population unknown). I picked up a sixer of Sheephead Ale prior to leaving Minneapolis (population 382,578), but for some reason did not drink it until recently in Milwaukee (population 597,867). That sample revealed a solid IPA that is surprisingly potent (7.7 percent ABV, not sure the population) with good flavors … probably a three or four mugger if I ever sit down to review it.

Cherry Bean Coffee Stout is classified as a foreign, or export stout. Basically, the foreign stout is to the standard stout what India (population … uh, it’s best not to think about it) pale ales are to standard pale ales. It’s not an “imperial” stout, but rather a standard version with stronger profiles, particularly when it comes to alcohol and roasted malt. Like IPAs, this helped preserve them on long journeys in the days of inferior shipping, thus the nickname “export” stout. It’s a similar creation tale to the Russian Imperial Stout, which was created to survive the arduous journey through the North and Baltic Seas from England (population 53,013,000) to Russia (population 141,930,000). However, foreign/export stouts do have subtle differences and more muted flavors than a typical Russian Imperial.

Cherry Bean Coffee Stout is named after the small coffee company that Brau Brothers acquires its beans from, Cherry Bean Coffee Co. in Parker, SD (population 1,022), southwest of Sioux Falls (population 156,592). A center pour into a pint glass reveals an initial frothy tan head about an inch thick that slowly dissipates into a creamy lace that lasts throughout the session and sticks to the side of the glass. As you would expect from a coffee stout, the color is black as night. A vortex of light, nothing is visible but the tan bubbles dancing on the surface.

Aromas are beautiful. Granted, Nigel is biased … he loves good coffee ALMOST as much as he loves good beer. However, for a coffee stout, the aroma is not overwhelming and can appeal to some non-coffee loving beer drinkers. While the initial waft is in fact of fresh roasted coffee, it’s muted to the point you can tell it’s only one of many players in a diverse, malty brew. However, though muted, it’s hard for any other specific scent to come though, as everything has a hint of coffee. Some dark sugars give it that hint of vanilla and mocha you’d expect at a good coffee house and play well with the overall dark roast.

Flavors emulate the aroma, as they are dominated but not overpowered by coffee. In coffee terms, it’s a nice, smooth, medium roast that gives you the full flavor of a fine coffee without coating your tongue in dark, astringent coffee as though you were sucking on a handful of beans. Dark sugars play well in the overall flavor profile, with various hints of chocolate, vanilla, and molasses. Also present are some dark fruits, again in small doses and consisting mainly of fig and black cherry. The latter appears to be coincidence, with the name being derived from the coffee supplier and not intended to be indicative of it being a “cherry coffee stout.” As with most good coffee stouts, the dark roasted coffee flavor gets stronger as the session progresses and the beer warms, but it never gets to the point that you feel you’re drinking a glass of iced coffee as sometimes can be the case with the style. This is a rare example of a stout that I actually enjoyed the colder it was. Full bodied, Cherry Bean coats the tongue and leaves a little aftertaste, but overall is a very manageable brew in terms of drinkability.

All in all, Brau Brothers and Cherry Bean Coffee hooked up to create a solid brew that contains many of the elements found in a number of fine coffee stouts, but isn’t overpowered by any one characteristic. Out of the four Brau Brothers offerings I’ve had thus far, all of which have been good, Cherry Bean is the best yet. While a seasonal offering that is likely tough to find right at times, it’s definitely worth a look from any dark beer loving Dork.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on November 12, 2012.
Agree with this review?

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

Beer Dorks News

Want to know how healthy the craft beer industry is? As always, look to Portland. Craft pioneer Bridgeport announces sudden closure, adding to a growing list of PDX casualties.
Did Anheuser-Busch Chicago offer their shit beer to Cody Parkey before his missed field goal? Because that may explain why he "accidentally" biffed it.
Chicago now has the most breweries of any city in the country. Other things Chicago has the most of: murders, mobsters, and Ditkas.
Trying to spin it positive, BA releases end of year graphic. Only 5% growth in the craft sector when nearly 1000 new breweries opened? That's a collapse waiting to happen.
R.I.P. Tallgrass... another casualty as the regional/national craft beer market continues to get squeezed.
Wait... Constellation Brands cut all of the Ballast Point and Funky Buddha sales staff? They merged it with their Corona/Modelo staff?? We're SHOCKED!!!
Pizza Beer founder crying about failure of company, blames everyone else. Reminder, the beer tasted like vomit. Try having better ideas or making better products so you're not a failure.
It's Bud Light so doesn't really matter, but we expect this beer to be sitting around for awhile.
Indiana brewery to open with controversial beer names to "get the conversation going". Translation: taking advantage of serious issues for free publicity.
Hundreds of amazing beers in Wisconsin and the Cubs took back the one everyone drinks just because it exists and people have heard of it. How fitting...