What an odd title you might think, what are you doing with strangers and why? I thought this was a family site!!??
Well its not what it sounds like... A cupping is, in coffee barista terms, a tasting and its how our wonderful partnership with Strangers Coffee in Norwich started. We love a partnership with a local company and it was one day as I was walking down one of the lanes in Norwich that these guys took my eye. I had a long look through the window at their roaster before walking off thinking about how to broach the subject of a coffee beer but as I walked around the corner, I discovered their cafe, full of people enjoying coffee, the aromas of which, filled the street.
So I turned around, walked into the roastery and asked what they thought. Thankfully, they were a friendly bunch and within a couple of weeks I was back in, tasting various different coffees. Now this isn't a simple thing where they give you a cup of coffee and you take a good gulp, there is a technique that involves a glass of coffee, a spoon and a good slurp! Once you get this technique, and master the noise that goes with it, its a pleasant experience. Indeed, I left the place on quite a caffeine high but that wasn't the only reason for my elation, we had stumbled across a coffee that would be perfect to combine with an IPA style beer.
Forget the heavy stouts that are often synonymous with this style of beer, I had found (or been introduced to) a smooth, fruity, citrussy coffee that I could do something exciting with.
So, 2 weeks later, I was back, this time for a cupping with hops! I'm not sure if it had ever been done before but in my head, the best way to match these things up was to use the same tasting techniques. I may have discovered why this isn't normally done... Hops are by their very essence bitter and some of them are VERY bitter, not the most pleasant tasting but we did manage to get past that to the flavours and aromas and I came up with a plan.
A 100l brew was concocted and this was then split into 4 25l batches, with which I experimented with various hop combinations and amounts. It turns out the first one I tried was actually the best and a small change later got us to the 'Wild Awake' we have now.
I used Azacca hops combined with Saaz and Cascade. The Azacca has amazing citrus and tropical fruit flavours so combine seamlessly with the fruity coffee beans and the Cascade cements the citrus with big hits of aroma. This beer leaves the drinker in no doubt that coffee is its main ingredient but suprises on the tongue with its smoothness and fruity flavours.
So far, especially at tastings, its been a massive hit and you should be able to find it in several pubs around Norwich very soon.