Peanut butter and jelly. Cookies and milk. Bagels and cream cheese.
Coffee and beer? It’s a winning combination.
Alaskan Brewing Company and Heritage Coffee Roasting Company won gold at the Great American Beer Festival this Saturday in Denver for their Heritage Coffee Brown Ale, a collaboration between the two companies.
Employees toasted the win Saturday at a celebration at the Alaskan brewery in Lemon Creek.
“It’s been a fun collaboration, and then to have it come forward and win a gold medal is super exciting for both of us,” Alaskan Brewing co-founder Marcy Larson said.
Competition at the Great American Beer Festival is fierce. Nearly 8,000 beers from 2,217 breweries were entered this year for gold, silver and bronze medals in 98 categories. It’s the largest commercial beer competition in the world.
A panel of 276 beer experts from 13 countries rate the beer. Judges will sometimes forego handing out a gold medal if they can’t find a beer in a category that meets their standards.
“I think that’s really awesome when you can get recognition, especially at the national level,” Heritage owner Amy Knight said.
Darin Jensen, a marketing employee at Alaskan, has worked at both Alaskan and Heritage and had his hands in every aspect of making the beer. The amalgamation of breakfast and brew was a process of experimentation, Jensen said, between himself, brewer Tyler Lindquist and Heritage roast master Marcos Morehouse.
Jensen brought the idea to Heritage in 2012. They were “all about it,” he said, so he dropped off some malt for Morehouse, who developed a novel malt roasting process.
“They ended up coming up with a really unique way to actually put the malt into the roaster towards the end of the roast and actually roast the malt with the coffee,” Jensen said.
The process is a bit risky. During test roasts, Jensen said they feared the malt, a grain which helps give beer its flavor, would be dry enough to catch fire while roasting. The crew stood around the roaster with hoses during the process.
“There were a few harry points,” Jensen said of the beer’s development.
“It was very scary. I hid in my office and let Darin do it,” Knight joked.
After roasting, Heritage separates the coffee beans from the malt using a sieve. To up the coffee flavor more, cold-brewed coffee is added.
Jensen said the beer also stands out because of its lightness. Brewers often combine coffee flavors to porters and stouts, darker, strong-flavored beer which can balance out coffee flavors. But Lindquist and Jensen wanted to do something different. They felt the coffee flavor would stand out better in a brown ale.
“It’s kind of the perfect match, right?” Jensen said.
• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org