Column: Worthy & Wise coffee cream ale worth a try

Worthy Brewing’s coffee cream ale, Worthy & Wise, is available on tap at its pub with cans coming out this week.(Ryan Brennecke/Bulletin photo)

The newest limited-release beer from Worthy Brewing Company is a collaboration brew that will have you craving coffee and cream — though not quite literally.

Worthy & Wise is a coffee cream ale, the latest specialty beer to be released in cans as part of Worthy’s Hopstar limited series. The brewery partnered with Portland-based coffee roaster Dapper & Wise to brew up the collaboration. The beer blends Dapper & Wise’s Ethiopian Shantawene Natural bean with a base style of American cream ale.

I wrote about cream ale earlier this year; it’s a light, crisp, pale ale similar to a robust American lager. Combining the style with coffee is not immediately intuitive, as most would associate “coffee” with darker beers such as porter and stout. In recent years, however, breweries have experimented with lighter styles such as IPA and cream ale to showcase the coffee.

Last year, Wild Ride Brewing in Redmond combined coffee with a golden ale to release Twist and Shout Coffee Blonde. And Bend Brewing Company just released its Coffee N’ Cream Coffee Blonde Ale collaboration with Thump Coffee.

With Worthy & Wise, the style was selected based on the coffee itself. Head brewer Dustin Kellner explained the process via email.

“In my experience with coffee beers, you tend to get the best characteristics from the coffee by adding cold brew to finished beer. In the cupping with Dapper and Wise, we tasted a hot and cold version of each variety to get the best idea of what it would translate like in the finished beer and chose the beer style based on the variety of bean. The result is all of the flavor with little to none of the bitterness.”

I asked what brought him to select a cream ale. “This was determined 100% by the bean,” Kellner said. “We all fell in love with the Ethiopian beans because of their fruity sweetness and citrus/stone fruit characteristics. Rather than risk covering that up with the roastiness of a stout, we opted for a clean, crisp, classic cream ale. Lightly hopped and relatively low in ABV to be extremely drinkable and showcase the light roast of the coffee.”

The beer has been available on draft at Worthy for a month. I enjoyed a pint several weeks ago and found a nice balance between the lighter ale style and the coffee. The aroma is reminiscent of light, freshly roasted coffee, not unlike squeezing a fragrant bag of coffee beans. At the same time, lightly fruity notes from the Ethiopian bean are evident and reminded me of cherry, berries and currants.

I found the flavor to be subtle and appetizing, with the coffee contributing a chocolate, cherry bark and nutty character that balanced the grainy cream ale quite well. It’s smooth and easy drinking with a creamy finish accentuating the coffee.

The underlying cream ale style is solid and a good choice for this beer. I asked Kellner about the possibility of releasing it as a standalone offering.

“Cream ales are one of mine and my brewer’s favorite styles and I truly wish we made more of them,” he said. “With a heavy dose of flaked barley and Mecca Grade’s undermodified base malt for body and mouthfeel, this ­recipe was unique to this beer and was the creation of my Head Brewer Zach (Brenneman).”

Cans of Worthy & Wise are available at Worthy’s pub and will be rolling out to retail outlets over the coming week. It’s a good beer to enjoy for the autumn season and worth picking up. Save some for Thanksgiving as well; it will pair well with food and be a satisfying addition to your holiday meal.

— Jon Abernathy is a beer writer and blogger and launched The Brew Site (thebrewsite.com) in 2004. He can be reached at 
jon@thebrewsite.com.

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