The Panama Geisha variety — and the famed Peterson family-owned farm Hacienda La Esmeralda that has brought it much notoriety over the past decade through repeated successes at cupping tables, auctions and in barista competitions — is believed by many to stand alone in terms of balanced complexity, unique jasmine aromatics, and pleasantly intense fruit notes.
The highly coveted coffee is now part of a beer collaboration with Fort Collins, Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing, resulting not only in the most expensive beer in NBB’s history, but also one that supports the agricultural communities from which ingredients are sourced.
The La Folie Grand Reserve: Geisha Sour Ale, which will be available in 750-ml champagne-style bottles in select markets while it lasts beginning Nov. 3, combines the Esmeralda Geisha with New Belgium’s award-winning, oak-aged Flanders-style sour La Folie.
Portland, Oregon-based green coffee importer Sustainable Harvest has been a key player in the collaboration, not only in getting the Esmeralda coffee transported, but in connecting partners through the production and development process. SH founder David Griswold told Daily Coffee News the release has been about two years in the making. Both certified B Corporations, SH and NBB propelled the collaboration this past April at the Uppers & Downers exhibit at the annual Specialty Coffee Association event in Seattle.
Fort Collins-based Troubador Maltings, co-created by former Roasters Guild executive and Coffee Shrub co-founder Chris Schooley, provided the locally grown malted barley and wheat for the La Folie Grand Reserve Geisha, while yet another local outfit, Bean Cycle Roasters, provided roasting services specifically for the collaboration.
“Most of the ingredients were happening in about a one square mile of the New Belgium brewery, with the exception of the Peterson’s coffee,” Griswold told DCN by phone. “It is one thing to have the most expensive beer, but we also wanted to make sure this was going to do something for the farmers.”
To that end, NBB will be donating $1 per every bottle sold to the SH-associated nonprofit Relationship Coffee Institute, which is partnering with the nonprofit World Coffee Research on a project to help smallholder coffee farmers construct and achieve certification for seed nurseries.
“This project… is especially important because the warming climates are adversely affecting coffee production,” Griswold said. “Smaller farmers are committed and interested in growing the diverse and transparent varieties of coffee that are both resilient and produce the rich and unique tastes found in both great coffee and in beer.”
The beer in this case was bottled by New Belgium with nitrogen — a popular application in specialty coffee’s cold brew sphere — for a soft, velvety mouthfeel. To be served chilled, the 7.9% ABV sour ale preserves the coffee’s mandarin flavors and jasmine aromatics while playing with the sour plum and cocaa flavors found in La Folie, according to the brewery. More notes on the beer, including local availability, can be found here.