Friday, May 25, 2012

[A Beer a Day] Jittery Monk Coffee Dubbel | Thirsty Planet Brewing | Austin, TX

Often, Texas microbrewing can tend to go a bit like this:  Hello, we are a new brewery in your area and here are four beers that we know you already like ...

And then we thirstily smash all of it into our faces because, hey, We're fuckin' Texas, right?  And damn right we're gonna get down with our locals like Andy Cohen on Pet Shop Boys night. 

Of course, this is a perfectly acceptable approach, especially for the start-ups banking on accessing a quick and critical following.  I'm not being raw, just observant; this is something that seems to occur every 3-6 months in this state.  I do applaud any and every variety, all of the pleasing options we are offered, and the oft-rotating alternatives to the familiar tap handles. 

In the case of microbrews, quantity IS quality -- a rare exception to the rule.  The more we have around, the better off we are because of it.

But what makes these small breweries the most interesting -- at least to me -- is not that they can provide us with what they know we already like, but what they can predict will enrapture an entire beer community.  The only way to effectively do this is to be integrated within the community, to harmonize with your fans, and provide context to your product. 

This is exactly the reason why the macro-sized quarter-wits over at InBev et al so often miss with their secondary audience, giving us things like Bud Platinum(!), expecting us to lose our fuckin' minds, and sending a rep to Spec's to inform us that "YOU CAN TOTALLY TASTE THE ALCOHOL IN THERE, BROS!".  Its enough to make you want to kick a small child.

But where does that connection between brewer and consumer hit exactly the right chord?  When something as stunningly creative as Thirsty Planet's Jittery Monk Coffee Dubbel arrives at your esophageal disposal. Now this is being in-tune with your congregation.  This is a whole fucking sermon.

I was fortunate enough to get a pre-screening of Jittery Monk at the Alamo Drafthouse Off-Centered Rolling Roadshow last month, where an impressive collection of local brewers assembled to demonstrate a twist on one of their traditional beers.  For example, (512) Brewing brewed a cherry and coconut infusion into their Pecan Porter and Live Oak made their Big Bark into a rauchbier, which was all very nice and tasty.

But Thirsty Planet went tits-out, and fashioned an entirely new beverage -- and by that I mean, like, they pretty much invented a whole new category* of beer: The Belgian Coffee Abbey. 

Its one of those things that just seems all-too-obvious to have not been trademarked earlier, like, I don't know, in the five centuries since coffee, abbey ales, and Trappists monks have co-existed.  Whats more is, I cannot fathom something more idyllic than sipping a pint inside a small, war-worn cafe in Chimay while the smell of fresh drip wafts from the gallery.  Belgians are the romantics of beer, and Thirsty Planet was about to get humpy.

While Jittery Monk emphasizes its coffee notes, the brilliance is in the use of a cold-pressed coffee supplied by local roasters Kohana Coffee.  In doing so, the coffee is never introduced to the heat element that tends to drain the flavor of the bean itself.  Instead, the cold-press makes the product far less acrid and presents itself as a naturally sweetened and very noticeably smoother liquid.   

One thing that I've often complained about in coffee beers is the pervasive chipotle-tasting acidic flavor that renders into the beer.  I can often overlook it, but it makes the beer far less enjoyable -- like when, in a rush, you have to settle for gas-station coffee instead of the neighborhood roaster. 

With Jittery Monk, that charred bitterness never presents itself, and instead, you are left with a very well-bodied coffee beer that finishes on the palate with a sweet cream and expertly placed hint of smoke, spice, fresh baked bread, malt, and Belgian chocolate.  Its a complex beer without being fussy.  Its clever without being exaggerated.  And I think its currently the best beer in Austin.

ABV: 8.o%
Acquired: Drink.Well

*(at least to my knowledge)


Anonymous said...

Totally agree! Jittery Monk is sublime.

Eric said...

Indeed! Thanks for reading!

Piper said...

thanks for providing a great blog about a really well crafted beer - we personally love this brew. Thirsty Planet has some serious brew talent - and we appreciate that about them. We feel lucky to have been part of it.

Piper Jones
Kohana Coffee

Eric said...

It couldn't be a perfect beer without the use of your cold brew coffee. Can't wait to try Kohana on its own too. Fell in love with cold brew after trying Stumptown a couple years ago. Thank-you for reading!

Cooley said...

Just want to say this was my favorite article I've read about the beer that set the standard. Seriously, I worked that rolling roadshow for Alamo, I'm exposed to so many beers, but after tasting the Jittery Monk, I haven't stopped salivating over my next glass. No beer has ever made me feel like this one does. I'm heart broken though, because I've been questing to see where in the city I can still find it, and am having no luck. Does anyone know if they bottled any of this magical monk?

Eric said...

Drink.Well. on North Loop still had some just a few days ago, but they also mentioned that the keg was getting low. Thirsty Planet doesn't bottle yet, but I know they are trying to get their bottling line set up. They've got overwhelming support for this beer, so I'm sure they would be keen on giving us what we all want in bottles!

Thanks for reading!