You know that twilight hour between lunch and the end of the workday when things get ... foggy? Your darkest hour. Focus begins to flutter, and you're on the edge of falling, irretrievably, into a black hole. You face two options: You should probably get coffee, but a trip to the bar is so much more appealing. Thankfully, Southpaw has shimmied up a happy compromise. Actually it's not really a compromise at all -- it's a full-fledged beer that you'd be leaving work to drink -- but who's complaining? There's coffee in it. And I'm pretty sure that makes it a breakfast drink.
The beer, called "Grounds for Divorce," is a new collaboration between the Mission barbecue joint and Wrecking Ball Coffee. Southpaw's brewmaster, Phil Cutti, dreamed it up when he read an article about Wrecking Ball and decided to team up with the company. The first thing they agreed was not to do a stout or a porter, which are really the only kinds of beers that coffee ever makes it into, and usually -- according to Wrecking Ball's Nick Cho -- brewers treat it more as a flavoring agent rather than something skillfully integrated (philistines!). The crew wanted something cleaner, brighter, and lighter. The choice? A maibock--a lively German-style bock beer that offered potential as something bright, crisp, and refreshing, a profile that Cho tells us mirrors what coffee people love in a specialty-grade washed arabica coffee, but doesn't reach the beer drinker's palate as often. And so, it was chosen.
The coffee, roasted by Wrecking Ball, is from the Huila department of Colombia, part of an extraordinarily small lot from the end of last season. Cho describes it as sweet, with a bright acidity, and a strong brown-sugary character. It gives a hearty kick to the smooth maibock, pushing the sweetness up a notch, adding a crisp acidity and hint of bitterness that, oddly, resembles hops. We tried it, and we're delightfully surprised with the blend. It's sweet and crisp, and lets the coffee keep its character. Preserving the coffee's integrity adds some depth and a delicate, delicious, roundness to the maibock. While there's novelty in finding coffee in light beer, there's veritable joy in finding it working so well together.
Cutti tells us the name came on a whim while he was brewing and listening to Elbow's "Grounds for Divorce." Happily it came preloaded with a coffee pun, and points to the "divorce" from the tradition of coffee beers in the stout and porter style. It's a small batch, like all of Southpaw's seasonal beers, and should last three to four weeks. Until then, when the sloth of midday starts to creep your way, you know where to go.