The Pacific Northwest has descended on Charleston, and I'm not just talking about this murky spring.
I'm talking beer — Rogue Ale's Cold Brew beer specifically.
If there is anything that epitomizes the Pacific Northwest more than flannel, it's a tie between microbrewery IPAs and coffee. In a show of hipster Darwinism, Newport's Rogue Ale bred cold brew and IPA in what would seem an attempt to increase its odds in blue ribbon bars. The Pac NW-based microbrewery, which claims to be one of the nation's first (before it was cool), just released its new Cold Brew IPA and Cold Brew 2.0 — and now they've dropped in Charleston.
A blend of hops and blonde coffee that's crisp enough to pull you out of the foggiest doldrums, these canned concoctions are like a mix of Fermentory's cold brew on nitro tap and Edmund's Oast's "Soft Touch" IPA. It's not as ghastly as it might sound.
"I love it after a bike ride," says Rogue master brewer John Maier. As obscenely northwestern as that sounds, he's right.
Cold Brew 2.0 blends a sessionable blonde ale with Stumptown cold brew. The coffee is less acidic than regular drip thanks to the days-long process of soaking grounds in cool water to draw the caffeine out in a painfully slow but delicious extraction. The result is both surprisingly mild and fresh. Expect a spunky kick of brightness at the back of your throat — that's a result of Stumptown's propensity toward the lightest beans a hipster can handle. Rogue's ale softens the caffeine punch like a light half-and-half.
If you're looking for a brunch beer that straddles the line between alcohol and coffee like the weather is waffling from snowmageddon to beach — this is your cold brew.
Now, if you really want to taste the northwest, go Cold Brew IPA. Like the Newport coast where it's brewed or an episode of Portlandia, you have to weather the grating edge to enjoy it. It's crisp like coastal wind, funky like Fred Armisen, and altogether different from anything else brewing in Charleston.
Around these parts, coffee beers are stouts.
Tradesman has a coffee stout; Palmetto does an Espresso Porter; Westbrook concocted a special edition of their Mexican Cake stout with coffee beans, and Greenville's Quest Brewing mixes a stout with fresh West End Coffee Company beans. Beyond heading to Kudu for a cold brew and IPA and stirring the two together, you'll be hard-pressed to find a coffee beer in this town that isn't a stout.
There is only one bar in town where you can pop open one of Rogue's Cold Brew beers: Jack of Cups Saloon on Folly. The beach town hole-in-the-wall is one of the less Pacfic Northwesternly places in town, unless you're talking about its surprisingly gourmet and surprisingly vegetarian pub-defying food. Why they have the beer is a bit of a mystery. They didn't return one request for comment. It's not a brunch spot; not really a coffee-lover's spot; not really a hipster locale. Jack is a far cry from the civilization of North Face and Subarus where constant misty weather is only amplified by the steam from constantly-running espresso machines.
While you're wearing your parka to the beach anyway, though — why not sip on a beer that tastes like licking the hipster soul of Portland?
You can also buy Rogue's Cold Brew IPA at Total Wine, Jack of Cups, Lowes Foods, Café Craft, and World Market.