Best of Both Brews, Kenya Rioki. (7% ABV)
St. Boniface Brewing, Ephrata, PA
Tall cans with limited PA distribution
St. Boniface started as a business plan in 2010 and opened for business in the small Pennsylvania town of Ephrata in February 2011. An hour away from Philadelphia, Ephrata has about 14,000 residents that call it home and is a borough of Lancaster County, well-known as one of the largest Amish and Mennonite communities in the world. It’s a thriving small town with a large religious history and is also now home to one of the best breweries in PA.
Just 30 minutes away in Lancaster, PA, you’ll find another craft artisan excelling at what they do: roasting and serving coffee. Jess and Josh Steffy started Square One Coffee in 2007, and have become one of the best coffee roasters in the country. I can actually find their coffee here in Atlanta at The Fresh Market. A multiple Good Food Awards winner, they’re also active members in the barista competition circuit, and Jess is a certified judge and licensed Q Grader. Jess was on the cover of Barista Magazine back in the fall of 2014, and she’s a leader in the conversation around women’s equality in the coffee community. Square One now maintains locations in both Lancaster and Philadelphia.
In 2016, St. Boniface and Square One joined forces on the first version of their “Best of Both Brews” Coffee IPA. Square One’s Director of Education Hadassah Wilson is a beer enthusiast and had been interested in collaborating on a coffee IPA with a brewery for the whole time she’s been at SQ1. “I was really hoping to work with a brewery that she respected and felt was producing balanced and delicious beers,” Wilson tells me. “I became a fan of St. Boniface about two years ago, which prompted me to email them and mention my idea of a collaboration between them and Square One. They agreed to meet with me and hear my pitch. As soon as I explained the flavor profile I was hoping to produce between the two very intense flavors of coffee and beer, they were ready to talk logistics.”
The original version of this beer used Square One’s Ethiopia Guji, and earned an average score on popular beer rating app Untappd of 4.1 out of 5 caps. The new version uses the roaster’s Kenya Rioki coffee and came out earlier this summer to similar rave reviews. On the switch to a Kenyan coffee, Jess Steffy tells me that the Kenya Rioki offers “a beautiful balance of sweetness, acidity, and a complex bitterness,” along with stone fruit notes that play well with hops. But there’s an added dimension to this choice: Square One sponsors local non-profit Horizon, who works to empower orphaned children in Kenya, and this was an opportunity to highlight the organization by working with a delicious Kenyan coffee.
Upon opening the can, you get a burst of fresh hops, and it pours a golden brown with a nice thick head. The aroma is almost floral and sweet. This is a clean IPA with a lot of sweetness and low bitterness. The coffee flavor comes in on the backend and has notes of sweet fruit and berries. The real MVP of this beer is its balance, everything about this beer is in perfect harmony, from the hops to the malts to the coffee added.
This beer was tasty all the way to the end, and one of the best coffee IPAs I’ve ever had. It’s a real testament to what can happen when craft breweries work hand-in-hand with coffee roasteries to achieve something outside of the “smoky, charred coffee” taste so many breweries are happy to leverage in their coffee beers. Coffee beers don’t have to be dark and smoky: they can also be clean and sweet, and this beer proves that point very well. Seek this beer out if you’re in the area or can trade for it.