Cracking the Coffeemaker

 

Our collaborative spirit often finds us in beautiful spaces all over the world—and in our own backyards—populated by creative, entrepreneurial people who inspire us. We recently sent our Head Service Technician and resident beer expert Bill McAllister to the borderlands of Connecticut, where he visited a…beer farm?

kent falls brewing irving farm coffee coffeemaker beer

My phone’s GPS started to work only intermittently before I crossed the border from New York into Connecticut. I was on my way to visit Kent Falls Brewing Company after Irving Farm’s Teresa von Fuchs surprised me with the opportunity for a brewery tour and a takeaway of a few cases of beer. Totally helpless without a computer navigating for me, my anxiety peaked as I came close to completing a full circumnavigation of Lake Waramaug—but it wasn’t long before I felt a mild bliss at the sight of the idyllic farm that Kent Falls Brewing Company calls home. I picked the closest building—a modest barn—and invited myself in, looking for Barry Labendz, co-founder/manager of the brewery.

What I walked into was this beer geek’s fantasy: gleaming mash tuns, stainless steel fermentation tanks, a keg cleaner/filler, and most gorgeous of all, a line-up of perhaps twenty wooden barrels. I introduced myself to the three-person bottling team, Barry appeared, and I soon had a miniature glass of beer in each hand. In my left, Waymaker, one of the three flagship beers brewed regularly on the farm. In my right, Coffeemaker, an experiment that spikes Waymaker with some of Irving Farm’s coffee sourced from the Santa Isabel farm in Guatemala.

kent falls brewing irving farm coffee coffeemaker beer

Before launching into the geeky details of how Coffeemaker came to be, let me say: I was blown away by this beer. I’ve had several beers made with the addition of coffee, from the straightforward (and often boring) generic coffee-flavored porter/stout/name-your-typical-dark-beer to ambitious and wild single-hop, single-origin coffee, single-keg releases from the beer industry’s darling hot shots. Coffeemaker reminded me both of the Waymaker I had sipped seconds before and an iced version of our Santa Isabel, served by the carafe-ful at the IFCR training loft all summer. It may sound simple, but achieving that balance is something that few brewers are able to pull off. Kent Falls Brewing has, and it is delicious.

Even without the addition of coffee, Waymaker is a bit of an unusual beer. It is hoppy and complex, with flavors more easily describable by setting a scene than drawing comparisons to other foods and drinks. Think late spring verdancy in New England, carbonated in a glass. The body sat heavy on my palate, but not in the syrupy way that I’ve come to expect from most thick beer. Genre-wise, it is an India Pale Ale (IPA) that is fermented with wild yeast called Brettanomyces, or “Brett” for short. IPAs are a staple in the craft beer section of any grocery store or deli, but still land outside the mainstream due to the heavy dose of hops essential to the style. Besides the aromatics of citrus, flowers, and pine resin, the hops bring a bitter component to the beer. Brewers often use extra malt in IPAs, which provides a sweetness to balance that bitterness but also increases the body of the beer.

kent falls brewing irving farm coffee coffeemaker beer

But what about this wild yeast? Normally, beer is fermented with domesticated Saccharomyces yeast. Brett is its feral cousin, five times removed, except anyone that studied biology in college would point out that these two are not even in the same family, taxonomically speaking. Brett is used to ferment sour beers or a “wild” saison style brew because, depending on the work of the brewmaster, the yeast produces acidic chemicals and a wide range of exotic aromatic chemicals otherwise absent from conventionally fermented beer. It also typically makes for a thinner, delicate beer. Here is where I cede to you the limits of my beer-geek knowledge. Waymaker has got the spicy, barnyard-y flavors that are a dead giveaway of a brett-fermented beer, but does not lack for body at all, and I have no idea how the guys at Kent Falls Brewing do it.

I am certain, though, that Dan Streetman, our Green Coffee Buyer, and Teresa von Fuchs, our Director of Wholesale, hit it out of the park for their side of the Coffeemaker collaboration. Dan and Teresa did much more than drop off some beans. They chose the coffee, the brew method, and experimented with a wide range of beer-to-coffee ratios.

The brew method was a straightforward decision, since we have confidently brewed hot coffee directly onto ice at our cafes for years. This method results in coffee that is strong while preserving the nuances of hot coffee that we love, particularly the crisp fruit-like acidity and aromas, which other methods such as cold-brewing sacrifice.

kent falls brewing irving farm coffee coffeemaker beer

Beans from the Santa Isabel Farm in Guatemala were their choice for this first batch of Coffeemaker. Dan has been visiting Santa Isabel for years, and Irving Farm is very proud of the relationship we have with Alex and Martin Keller, the third-generation operators of the farm. Relationships like this are at the core of how Irving Farm works, and so Santa Isabel is our quintessential mid-summer coffee after we have gone through all of the season’s Costa Rican and Salvadoran coffees. It is also delicious—a beautiful example of a sweet, clean, balanced Central American coffee. It simultaneously has approachable flavors of caramel and dark chocolate, but also the sparkle of fresh pineapple. It is easy to see why Dan and Teresa chose Santa Isabel for our first collaborative brew.

If all of this has you ready to find a four-pack of Coffeemaker to bring home, don’t hesitate. As much as Kent Falls and Irving Farm have common ground in delicious beverages, we also see the truth in the seasonality of agriculture, whether it is coffee or grain. So, expect Coffeemaker to change as the seasons do, but trust it will always be delicious.

 

Join us 7pm, Thursday, August 26 at the Owl Farm Bar, 297 Ninth Street, Brooklyn, to taste Coffeemaker as well as a limited edition Cascara Waymaker at a very special Kent Falls Brewing launch event!

Is your lover a coffee lover?

ifch-millertion-6

 

Flirting with the idea of the perfect consumable Valentine’s Day gift? Irving Farm Coffee Roasters offers the perfect way to get to delight someone with a cafe gift card he or she can use to buy coffee, treats, or more at any of our cafes. Perhaps they’ll even share a cup with you?

Looking for something with a little more commitment? We also offer coffee subscriptions in three, six, and twelve-month periods, for the gift that keeps reminding your special someone of your impeccable taste — and just how sweet it is to share coffee together in the mornings.

 

Happy Earth Day!

David of Irving Farm backstage

 

Trudie & David of Irving Farm

 

Bill Clinton being a rock star!

 

Each guest took home a bag!

 

Happy Earth Day!

Earlier this month, Irving Farm launched a special-edition charity coffee offering at the 2012 Benefit Concert for The Rainforest Foundation700 guests including Bill Clinton, Elton John, Meryl Streep, Bryn Terfel, Rita Wilson and others joined founders Trudie Styler and Sting to raise funds and celebrate the ongoing work of the foundation. You can see pictures from this event at our blog.

But the work and the celebration didn’t end at the concert. As Earth Day approaches, we want everyone to join in. For each bag of this coffee sold, we’re giving a dollar to The Rainforest Foundation. Each dollar enables the foundation to protect 60 trees and 9000 square feet of forestland. Please read more about this project here and consider joining us in our efforts.

Starting on Earth Day (this Sunday, April 22nd!) our cafes, 71 Irving Place and 56 Seventh Avenue, will be brewing only the Rainforest Foundation Project coffee blend for one whole week. So stop by for a cup!

Please also support the cafes and markets that are partnering with us in our Rainforest Foundation Project:

If you are around on/after Earth Day, definitely stop by one of our partners to grab a cup and buy a bag to champion this cause!

Travel Update: Honduras + Nicaragua

Jose Francisco Villeda and family

 

Dan meeting farmers, Hoduras newspaper

 

Omar, Las Capucas Co-op President

 

The view from El Cielito in San Vicente

 

Marcala

 

Coffee flowers in Nicaragua

 

Travel Diary

Dan, our Coffee Director, just returned from a coffee buying trip where he visited some old friend and made new coffee friends; sniffed, swirled and spit coffee; crossed borders and made the newspaper in Honduras…

Here are a few lines from his travel diary:

First stop, Capucas:

I wanted to drop a line about Las Capucas. Everything was amazing when we got here. Our hosts had built cabanas for us to stay in, which was real fun. This year the co-op had 40 new members join and I got to meet some of them. Great news, they all replaced their milling equipment with brand new milling equipment! Best of all, the coffee is improving. This year they had 44 lots in the competition (last year we had 30) and there were only 2 lots that we scored as “non-specialty”. This is an impressive achievement and I’m excited about how things continue to develop here.

On Saturday after the festival, I visited Jose Francisco Villeda (aka Pancho) and his family.  He is a farmer whose coffee we currently buy. It was really awesome to sit down with him and learn more about his farm and family. Pancho and his wife Patricia have 4 daughters and 1 son. This year Pancho is processing much more of his own coffee, instead of selling it to the mill. This is largely because of our commitment to continue buying from him and the prospect of us buying more coffee.

 

Two days in San Vicente:

Now we are in Santa Barbara and working with the San Vicente Dry Mill. Santa Barbara is the most famous part of Honduras to source coffee from right now.  Mostly because many of the “Cup of Excellence” winners come from here. For example the El Sauce coffee we had from CoE in 2010, which I visited today. We cupped 30 coffees in the Mill today, did a few farm visits and tomorrow are doing more farm visits from the coffees that we liked. I found one lot that I like a LOT which wasn’t spoken for and we are going to visit tomorrow.  It is all Bourbon, which is uncommon here with mostly Pacas and Catuai being grown.

 

Two days in Marcala:

We took a side trip to Marcala on the way to Nicaragua.  Marcala is probably the best known of Honduras’ growing regions.  It is a controlled Denomination of Origin by the Honduran Government, which means the coffees must be from the region of Marcala, and meet the quality specs.  This year however was the first year the mill here has separated “micro-lots”.  We cupped 30 coffees and saw some promise.  We also met an amazing young lady named Nancy Contreras, who has been cupping since she was 14 and now owns a coffee shop, roasts and cups at the mill. 


Last stop, Nicaragua:

Yesterday we crossed the border from Honduras to Nicaragua. This morning we are getting up early to head out to visit some farms. We toured around Ocotal (the city where we are) in two coffee growing regions, Dipilto and Mozonte.  The last day we cupped 30 coffees at Beneficio Las Segovias, before heading to the Managua.  Dipilto and Mozonte also showed tons of promise and some amazing producers with very distinct points of view.  

After two weeks on the road I am exhausted but amazed at the great coffees and people I have been introduced to. Looking forward to returning home to NYC.

Starting Something New

We’re proud to support the work of The Rainforest Foundation. We recognize the importance of restoring farmland with tree plantings amid coffee crops to provide a healthy habitat for surrounding flora and fauna. We are committed to sourcing beans from responsible and sustainable coffee growers worldwide.

By purchasing a special edition bag, you champion this cause and help our efforts to protect the environment.

Learn more about this project and other ways to get involved here.


(Via SPRUDGE.COM) Newsflash: There is good coffee in New York City on the Upper West Side! The UWS is a largely untapped resource for specialty coffee, perhaps due to the frankly odd way of life that exists there – $6500 a month apartments directly next door to $500 rent controls! doormen that make more during Christmas than you do all year! that remarkable park, right there within walking distance, close enough to call your back yard! – but more likely on account of ludicrously high rents. Opening a new cafe there is risky, but the folks at Irving Farm are betting big by setting up a flagship space at 264 W 79th, between Broadway and Amsterdam, in the heart of the UWS. Here’s some more from the Irving Farm blog:

We’re completely reconstructing a 1500 square-foot space on the ground floor of a historic brownstone on West 79th Street in Manhattan. From the building materials and brewing equipment, to the coffee menu and food offerings, we’re designing a space that will be unlike anything we’ve built before, and a cafe experience we hope will be unlike anything you’ve ever had before!

We’re still several weeks away from opening the doors, but we can’t help our excitement as all the new components begin to fit into place. On the counter, we’ll have a La Marzocco Strada and a beatifully hand-crafted bar for our Kalita pour-over gear—all of this to present our dynamic menu of blended and single-origin coffees that Dan Streetman (Ed. note: that’s him riding the Wooly Mammoth), our Coffee Director, has been working hard to source. In addition to the coffee, our menu will feature craft beers, a small list of wines and local meats and cheeses. And, to take it all in, we’ll have a back lounge with a skylight and a 10-foot community dining table made of reclaimed wood.

Irving Farm’s new cafe is designed by the architecture firm LEVENBETTS (we understand they prefer the full capitalization), whose website is here – we dare you not to lose an hour there.

Let’s put this is New York context, shall we? To reach the new Irving Farm cafe, one takes the oft-ignored 1 train, which, if you haven’t been on it in a while, is actually quite nice – there’s usually the full dot-tracking stop service in each car, and the tone of your train will be its own whole thing, a mix of Columbia students, incognito (or accidental) billionaires, and collected sociological samples from that odd para-world that exists along the Northern finger of Manhattan Island serviced by the 1, all the way to that amazing castle-thing in Fort Tryon Park. Take the 1 and get off on the 79th Street stop – Irving Farm UWS is a proverbial hop, skip, and jump away.

Irving Farm joins Joe NYC’s space on W. 84th (Ecco) and the Momofuku Milk Bar space on Columbus and W. 84th (Stumptown) as outposts for high-end non-Starbucks coffee options on that side of Central Park. It is also worth noting that Irving Farm’s new space will be within mere blocks (and a $19 suggested donation) from the T-Rex fossil on permanent exhibition at the American Natural History Museum. We’re working on an approbative thesis now: “Good Coffee and Dinosaurs: Towards A New Duality”.

More, we say! We want more good roasters represented above and around Central Park, and we want it now! Don’t you realize these neighborhoods are chockablock with curious billionaires, surreal vistas, and all manner of cool / weird stuff to do? Coffee is such a lovely way to enjoy and explore New York, and we don’t just mean the New York below 34th Street. This very promising development from Irving Farm gives us one more excellent excuse to go see the Aptosaurus, the wooly mammoth, and the Hayden Planetarium….summer softball in the park, anyone?

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