Magical Mystery Pour #26: Colchester Brewery Brazilian

Illustration: Colchester Brazilian with coffee beans.

The second Essex beer from a set chosen for us by Justin Mason (@1970sBOY) of Get Beer, Drink Beer is a coffee and vanilla porter at 4.6% ABV.

We got it from Essex Food at £3.00 per 330ml bot­tle. Justin says:

Colch­ester Brew­ery use the ‘dou­ble drop’ method, where pri­ma­ry fer­men­ta­tion takes place in one ves­sel before being ‘dropped’ under grav­i­ty to a sec­ondary fer­men­ta­tion ves­sel below, in the brew­ing of all their beers. Their Brazil­ian, with its label resem­bling that of a high street cof­fee chain (pure coin­ci­dence) is brewed using Brazil­ian cof­fee and fresh vanil­la pods and is a beer that I’d quite hap­pi­ly end a meal with, hav­ing done so on numer­ous occa­sions.

We have mixed feel­ings about cof­fee beers. Too often they end up tast­ing sick­ly and fake – more like cof­fee cream choco­lates, or cof­fee cake, than the real thing. Or, when they avoid that fate, they can instead end up too seri­ous, harsh and headache-induc­ing. And of course there’s the nov­el­ty fac­tor – is it a stunt, or a prop­er beer? Our gut feel­ing is that prop­er beers sug­gest cof­fee with­out just adding it to the brew.

In this case, too, the Star­bucks-inspired brand­ing did­n’t fill us with hope. It’s such an obvi­ous joke, a cheap shot, that it made us think some­what ill of the beer from the off.

Colchester Brazilian porter in a beer glass.

On open­ing we felt yet more con­cerned. We’ve popped the caps on enough bot­tles over the years to almost be able to feel the char­ac­ter of the beer from the way it feels and sounds at that point. This felt flat and dead. It looked life­less as it went into the glass, too, although as it set­tled a thin tan head did emerge like some kind of mag­ic trick. It also kicked out a sub­stan­tial drift­ing aro­ma of bot­tled bak­ing essences.

And yet, for all those dan­ger signs, we real­ly liked this beer. The cof­fee char­ac­ter was fun rather than tacky and well bal­anced by the under­ly­ing beer – a bit­ter, light-bod­ied, uncom­pro­mis­ing porter that we’d like to try neat by the pint some­time. It was­n’t at all sick­ly – it sug­gest­ed sweet­ness with­out actu­al­ly hav­ing much sug­ar left in it – the sug­ges­tive pow­ers of vanil­la, we sup­pose. What it remind­ed us of in spir­it was those fan­ci­ly-pack­aged sin­gle-estate choco­late bars with, say, baobab, that they sell in the Eden Project gift shop. It was intense with­out being po-faced about it.

What real­ly sealed the deal was when we thought to check the ABV. We’d been assum­ing it was some­thing like 6% – sug­gest­ed by the bot­tle size, per­haps? – and were delight­ed to dis­cov­er that so much flavour was being dished up in such a mod­er­ate­ly alco­holic pack­age.

We’d def­i­nite­ly buy this again and (based on this one encounter) would rec­om­mend it over some much trendi­er, more trendi­ly pack­aged cof­fee stouts/porters we’ve encoun­tered.

The brew­ery has a large range of spe­cial beers includ­ing lots of his­tor­i­cal­ly-inspired recipes – we’ll be look­ing out for them on our trav­els.

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