Java the Hop: Coffee Beer Oregon-style!

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My friend Matt Brown at Coava Coffee Roasters in Portland, Ore., just let me in on some sweet news: Coava has partnered with one of our favorite Oregon brewers, Fort George, out of Astoria, to create a single origin coffee IPA called Java the Hop.

Fort George Brewery in Astoria, Oregon, and Coava Coffee Roasters in Portland, Oregon, have teamed up to create a single origin (that's both hops and coffee) IPA. I gon git sum.

Fort George Brewery in Astoria, Oregon, and Coava Coffee Roasters in Portland, Oregon, have teamed up to create a single origin (that’s both hops and coffee) IPA. I gon git sum.

I’m stoked! Personally, IPA is my very favorite kind of beer. I always get a little lost in an espresso stout. Of course, we all have our different preferences. But I just have to say, Holla!

So this beer is 6.7%, first of all, so go easy. But it’ll be hard because this thing is going to have some serious sweetness on it. Matt says that instead of the way a lot of coffee beers are made—which involve blending different hops together with different coffees—Java the Hop is single origin all the way: It brings together Amarillo Hops grown by Virgil Gamache Farms in Washington, which were chosen for their “complex aromatics and evened bittering traits.” Coava came to the table with a specially roasted natural-process coffee from the Kochere Cooperative in Ethiopia, chosen for its citrus notes. “The result is a deliciously balanced and delightfully unique IPA that stands head and shoulders above average coffee beers,” reads the official press release.

You're invited to the release party for this coffee IPA, Java the Hop, on January 23 at the White Owl Social Club in Portland, Oregon.

You’re invited to the release party for this coffee IPA, Java the Hop, on January 23 at the White Owl Social Club in Portland, Oregon.

I love a good party almost as much as a good beer, so I was extra pumped when Matt told me about a release party that Coava and Fort George are hosting at the White Owl Social Club, 1305 SE 8th Ave., Portland, Oregon, on January 23 from 6–9 p.m. I’ll be there—I’ll be there at, like, 5:30, waiting to get in the door.

Prizes from the hosting companies—Coava and Fort George, along with the White Owl and Sizzle Pie—will be up for grabs, too.

Paul Utzman, who is on Coava's production team, carries a case of Fort George beer into the roastery.

Paul Utzman, who is on Coava’s production team, carries a case of Fort George beer into the roastery.

I wanted to ask Matt some questions of my own about how Java the Hop came into being. Here’s our conversation:

Sarah: How did this idea for collaboration with Fort George come about?
Matt: 
The collaboration came out of a program that Fort George started last year. They essentially decided that they wanted all of their seasonal beers to highlight Northwest craftsmen. They’ve done beers with other breweries, as well as folks like Next Adventure [an outdoor activities store similar to REI but original to the Northwest and offering new as well as used goods]. They said we were the logical next choice since they are fans of our coffee and they know we love beer and working with folks outside of the coffee industry. In the past we’ve partnered with wood-working companies, clothing brands, and of course brewing companies, but never anything quite on the scope of what we’re doing with Java the Hop.

Coava staffers—like Laura Feldman, pictured here—love beer with a passion. Collaborating with a high quality company with strong Northwest roots like Fort George made perfect sense.

Coava staffers—like Laura Feldman, pictured here—love beer with a passion. Collaborating with a high quality company with strong Northwest roots like Fort George made perfect sense.

Sarah: What was the process? How did you guys come to a decision on the flavor profile for the beer? 
Matt: When we initially began to meet about doing a beer, Coava had just came off of a collaboration with de Garde Brewing from Tillamook Oregon. The beer we did with them was a phenomenal Oregon Wild Ale called the Cornelio Nunez Porter. Though “porter” was in the name, this beer had more in common with a Belgian sour ale. Beer nerds loved it, but it wasn’t accessible in the ways we hope our coffees are.
So when Fort George came to us with the idea of a coffee IPA, our primary goal was to get back to our coffee-buying-roots of balance and complexity. They loved that we were a single-origin-only company, and wanted us to find a coffee that would complement these amazingly citrus single-origin hops from Washington State called Amarillo. From here, [Coava owner] Matt Higgins dove in full bore and began experimenting with semi-washed and naturally-processed coffees at lighter roast developments to see if we could pair the coffees fruit notes with those already present in the hops. He and the Fort George’s brewers ultimately settled on the Kochere Natural from Ethiopia (a coffee we exclusively source for Coffee Commissary in Los Angeles). The outcome was a beer that was balanced in coffee and hop flavor. Too often folks want their product to stand out at the cost of it just being delicious.
The coffee IPA from Coava and Fort George combines single origin hops from Washington State with single origin coffee from Ethiopia.

The coffee IPA from Coava and Fort George combines single origin hops from Washington State with single origin coffee from Ethiopia.

Sarah: What do you guys at Coava admire about Fort George as a business and product?
Matt: We love Fort George and feel like kindred spirits with them on a lot of fronts. They’re a blue-collar family that shows up every day and works hard. They fought to make their mark and they love wearing their inspiration on their sleeves, whether in beer, coffee, or some other craftsmen trade.
Sarah: Where will it be available for purchase?
Matt: Starting on January 16, it’ll be available in 16-ounce cans in grocery stores, bars, and bottle shops all over Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Though a limited release, it’s still over 50,000 cans and tons of kegs to boot.
JAVA THE HOP!

JAVA THE HOP!

About the Author

Sarah

Sarah Allen is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.