A loving blend of coffee and beer that’s been years in the making!
Though the typical beer only takes a few weeks to make, the story of JOE – First Chop’s brand-new Cold Brew Coffee Oatmeal Stout – begins around seven or eight years ago, when First Chop’s founder Rik met a kindred spirit in a local, independent coffee roaster.
With a similar ethos and approach to quality that has been fundamental to First Chop’s way of brewing, Rik and Shen Lu of Passion Fruit Coffee Roasters joined forces for First Chop’s first-ever collab beer: a cold brew coffee IPA called JOE.
Now, years later, the pair a teaming up once more, bringing all the experience they’ve learned along the way to once again combine coffee and beer in the best way possible. The name JOE, however, was just too good to leave in the past.
“We then haven’t done anything with coffee again until we made this beer, and I thought it’s been long enough that we can call it JOE,” laughs Rik, founder or First Chop. “It’s just a great three-letter word for a coffee beer, so I’ve reused the name.
“When we made the first beer, we were both just starting, we were both quite small. It’s interesting to make another one now, six or seven years into running our businesses and to see how things have changed.
“Back then, when we made the first one, Shen was roasting in what was basically the garage behind her house with a coffee roaster that, I think, dated back to the 1920s. It was gas-fired and it could only roast a kilo at a time. I think it might have had a motor, from what I can remember and I’m not sure it always worked.”
It’s safe to say that both First Chop and Passion Fruit Coffee Roasters have grown a lot since their first collaboration. Back then, First Chop was brewing out of a railway arch but now find themselves in a bigger facility to cope with demand for their beer. Similarly, Passion Fruit Coffee Roasters has two shops and a roastery which Rik insists is, “the coolest shop in Old Trafford.”
He continues: “[The Old Trafford shop] sells her coffee and a nicely curated selection of food and homewares; just a nice collection of pieces that she picks herself. It’s one of those lovely little shops where you can go in for a coffee and you walk out with a mug, a packet of muesli, some jam, a loaf of bread, and a cabbage.”
Rik’s passion for working with like-minded individuals in evident in the way he raves about Shen’s approach to coffee. He says: “Shen is one of these people that has a sense of quality about everything she does.
“She roasts absolutely great coffee. The coffee that she selects to roast is great. She will taste it all individually. She’s been all over the world to visit the growers, she knows the growers she buys the coffee from. I have an ‘I Love Ethiopia’ magnet on my fridge that she brought me back after going there to meet come coffee growers. She just produces a fantastic product.”
When Rik and Shen collaborated the first time around, their combined expertise produced the unusual combination of a coffee IPA. This time, though, Rik decided to try his hand at a more traditional pairing.
“I’ve always wanted to do a coffee stout,” Rik says. “I think it’s a great match of flavours and I think we’ve got the balance right between the coffee and the oatmeal stout. It’s not too strong, it’s definitely got a taste of the coffee but there’s not too much bitterness because of the type of bean and processes and roast that we’ve used.
“So, it brings out some of the subtler flavours in the coffee rather than those strong, roasty flavours. I wanted to really bring out the subtle coffee flavours that work so well with a stout. I didn’t want people to open the can and feel like they were having a can of cold brew coffee, I wanted people to feel like they were still drinking a stout.”
For Rik to achieve his goal, the process of adding coffee had to be just right. Coarse ground coffee is added to the beer prior to fermentation, floating around in the wort and imparting all its beautiful flavour. By the time the beer has finished fermenting, all those coffee grounds have settled to the bottom of the tank. Flavour, however, wasn’t Rik’s only focus when it came to the coffee addition; caffeine had to be considered too.
“We’ve dosed the coffee and the caffeine in it so that you can have a few cans without your eyes popping out of your head,” says Rik. “The caffeine in each can is equivalent to somewhere between a third and a half shot of espresso.”
The new iteration of JOE is a labour of love, created by two people who approach their chosen fields with absolute care and attention to detail. The coffee used has been hand-picked and expertly roasted, then infused within an oatmeal stout brewed to Rik’s exacting standards.
Passion Fruit Coffee Roasters is an independent, Manchester-based coffee roaster owned and operated by Shen Lu.
You can check them out at: passionfruitcoffee.co.uk