In coffee beer genealogy, coffee stout is like a great great great great grandfather. Big-bodied and full of toasty and chocolaty flavors, a good stout is able to stand up to whatever notes its “bittering agent” brings to the table. Well, coffee and beer have both grown up since the bygone days when stout was all there was, but still—the classics have a place in our hearts here at Sprudge. Which is why we now bring you the Big Bad Baptist, a whiskey barrel-aged imperial stout by Epic Brewing.
Part of the Salt Lake City via Denver brewery’s Exponential Series, the Big Bad Baptist is a seasonal release that utilizes coffee from a variety of different roasters—depending on where you are in the country, your local Big Bad Baptist may be made with coffee from Blue Copper Roasters, Dark Horse Coffee, Novo Coffee, or one of nine others. Being from Texas, my regional version utilizes Dallas’ Cultivar Coffee Roasters, which just so happens to be one of my go-to shops in the Metroplex.
This is Cultivar’s third year of collaboration on the Big Bad Baptist, which always features their Finca Malacara, a washed Red Bourbon from El Salvador. But Cultivar co-owner Jonathan Meadows tells me this year is a bit different.
“This is the first year we went with a lighter roast,” Meadows says. “Previous years, [the coffee] has been more developed, almost to second crack.”
This year the roast profile is similar to that of Cultivar’s production batches of Finca Malacara—the ones you’d find at coffee shops all around Dallas.
With the lighter profile, the coffee imparts more than just a coffee-ness to the beer—instead, it loans flavors you would expect to find in cups of the coffee on its own. Notes of caramel and chocolate give the Finca Malacara a presence in the boozy, high ABV Big Baptist—13 percent in the Cultivar version—but one that meshes well with the cocoa nibs used in the beer’s aging process.
The Big Bad Baptist is everything people have come to know and love from this style of beer. It’s a big beer, pitch-black and motor-oil-thick, and pours with a tan head that dissipates somewhat quickly. Sugary richness pervades throughout, and underscores notes of vanilla, molasses, caramel, and chocolate, with a touch-of-heat finish owed to the whiskey barrel aging. The coffee is most present mid-palate, but lingers until the whiskey begins to dominate.
Epic’s Big Bad Baptist isn’t really trying to forge new ground on how coffee and beer can commingle. It is an expression of an older but still loved coffee beer tradition, seen through a modern lens. Beyond its flavor notes, the Big Bad Baptist keeps intact my favorite part of this style of beer—thanks to the high ABV, it’s a beer best shared with friends.
Zac Cadwalader is the news editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.