What you're drinking: There's a fuzzy line at the end of any given work day where you find yourself asking the question: Do I continue drinking coffee, or do I switch to beer? No matter how you execute it, the transition is abrupt. Caffeine levels drop, alcohol levels rise. Depending on whether you skipped lunch, you could find yourself comatose before The Daily Show starts. If you still watch The Daily Show.
Thankfully we're in that time of year when, through the graces of local brewmasters, the transition gets a little easier. I'm talking about coffee-infused beers, those dark, malty pints that help stave off the sleepies without sacrificing the buzz. In the past month, four local breweries have tapped coffee seasonals—three stouts and one Scotch ale, to be exact. Missoula Brewing Company cooked up its coffee milk stout (6.7 percent ABV) using Black Coffee Roasting Company's winter-time Drifter beans. Draught Works once again went with Black Coffee's flagship AM blend in crafting its second annual batch of the Grinder Coffee Stout (7.4 percent ABV).
- photo by Alex Sakariassen
Why you're drinking it: Because, as Draught Works brewer Ryan Tripepi says, coffee is a "universally loved and accepted commodity." It also happens to complement the malty flavor of darker beers, due to the similarities between the roasting processes for coffee beans and malt. There's about a third of a cup of coffee in each pint of the Grinder, Tripepi says, though you probably wouldn't know it. The coffee is cold-steeped prior to the brewing process, so the taste is pretty mellow.
When to drink it: Asked if there's an ideal time of day for a coffee beer, Tripepi punts. "There's no wrong time for a coffee stout," he says. Nonetheless, Draught Works is squirreling away some of its Grinder for inclusion in its slate of St. Patty's Day stouts. Tripepi estimates Draught Works will have six stouts on tap come March 17, meaning a jolt of caffeine will probably come in handy.
Where to drink it: For the Grinder, go to Draught Works at 915 Toole Ave. For the others, stop by the Southside KettleHouse, Great Burn Brewing or Missoula Brewing Company during any post-work gray area.
Happiest Hour celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, email firstname.lastname@example.org.