I’m often torn between a crafty cocktail or a good cold beer. Both are great, and both have a time and place. If I’m hitting a bar, at the beach with friends, it’s beer. If I’m going out for a fine dinner, it’s usually a cocktail and wine. Manhattans, or a properly made Mai Tai, seem to hit the spot. After dinner, a good cup of coffee is always welcome. But even more appealing is a coffee flavour beer, which gives you the best of both worlds. Luckily, there is a company called Mill Street Brewery, out of Toronto, brewing this beer. Is it possible to bring two distinct flavours, like coffee and beer, together and make it taste good?
Mill Street Brewery is located in the Distillery District in Toronto. This area is the former home of the Gooderham and Worts Distillery, once the largest distillery in all of the British Empire. It was built on 14 acres of land and produced 2.1 million gallons of whisky per year. Throughout time, a number of factors affected the business, including World War I and a short-lived attempt at prohibition in Canada. In 1957 they stopped producing whisky at this location and production was focussed on the Canadian Club brand, manufactured by Hiram Walker in Windsor, Ontario. The last product to be distilled at Gooderham and Worts was rum. In 1990, after a number of mergers, the Gooderham and Worts distillery closed. This area is now home to a thriving community of restaurants, art centres and breweries. It is also home to the number one film location in Canada. It is often referred to as Hollywood North.
If you search around, you can find a Canadian whisky called Gooderham and Worts, which is manufactured by Corby Distilleries. It is part of the "Canadian Whisky Guild" collection of small craft whiskies. The other two whiskies in the Guild include Pike Creek and Lot 40.
Now to the beer. Mill Street is a microbrewery that has a range of beers, mostly ales and seasonal selections. The Coffee Porter is brewed with freshly roasted coffee from the Balzac Coffee Company, another member of the Distillery District. This beer is a very dark mahogany colour. When you pour a glass, the first thing that hits you is a nose of coffee. If you are a coffee drinker, this will snap you back to your morning fix. The beer pours with a nice beige head, not quite like Guinness, but still an attractive looking pint. Your first impression when taking a sip will be coffee, followed by a slight hoppy bitterness. The beer finishes dry with a lingering coffee, beer flavour. This beer is actually a coffee flavour ale, but the two seem to go rather well if you like coffee, which I very much do. For me, this isn’t a hot summer day beer, it is more of an after-dinner drink or for when you are not sure if you want coffee or a beer.
Drinking this beer after dinner, with some good quality dark chocolate, like Droste, Valrhona or Bernard Callebaut is a great way to enjoy it. Bittersweet or semisweet chocolate works beautifully with this beer. You don’t want something super sweet with this beer. Also, matching it with food might be difficult, since it does have a strong flavour. I’d stick with desserts for this beer.
From a health perspective, there has been a lot of research into the health benefits of dark chocolate and dark beers. Cocoa flavonols have been linked to a reduction in blood pressure and in a recent study were demonstrated to show a reduction of cardiovascular deaths by 50% in people who had a diet rich in chocolate. Research has also shown that hops have anti-cancer properties. Now, common sense would tell you that these compounds won’t help you in the short term, but a varied diet including moderate consumption of beer and chocolate can’t hurt and may have long-term benefits. I’m always looking for reasons to drink beer and eat chocolate.
People I’ve shared this beer with either love it or hate it. If your regular beer consists of Coors Lite, Bud, or the like, then this isn’t for you. If you like a pint of Guinness or regularly seek out microbreweries, and like coffee, then I’m pretty sure you will like this beer.