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Beer Man: Peak hits high notes in Espresso Amber

7:53 PM, Mar. 7, 2013  |  Comments
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There is never a dearth of unusual beers for jaded tastebuds in this newfangled craft beer world. It makes me think of the line from Warren Ellis' Planetary comic series: "It's a strange world - let's keep it that way."

Now, Peak Organic Brewing's Espresso Amber isn't far out compared to some beers I've tried, but I have never come across a coffee beer that wasn't a stout or porter. When I saw it on the store shelf, my first thought was that the espresso would just overpower the amber beer flavor, usually strong on caramel malt. My second thought was, "All right, I have to know what they did with this."

Simply put, the brewery pulled it off. The initial aroma was the first surprise - instead of overwhelming coffee, I caught herbal hops with the coffee taking a back seat. The ale poured a darker amber than the norm, which would be expected with espresso added to it. The head was light tan and extremely creamy, leaving not so much lacing as spotting on the insides of the glass.

The first flavors were strong caramel and vanilla from the malt, which turned out to be from the use of Munich malt, a common ingredient in bock beers. It reminded me more of something like Alaskan Amber than a bock beer, however, and then the espresso kicked in with a pleasant roasted bitterness.

The mouthfeel, like the head, was very creamy and went well with the medium carbonation. The coffee flavor seemed to increase as the beer warmed up in the glass, but the amber profile stayed put.

Peak states that the 7 percent ABV Espresso Amber is the first Fair Trade certified beer in the United States and its website has a lot more information explaining the details. Its beers are mostly available in the eastern U.S., but I did purchase my 22-ounce sample in Wisconsin. I did not notice a Beer Finder link on the site, so emailing inquiries to the brewery may be your best bet to track down its products.

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