Last week we debuted two new barrel aged stout series, Anaphora and Noema, which have both been received with incredible success, but next week we have yet another viscous dive into the darkness to share with you!
We’ve spent years brewing different stout bases, each with a unique purpose to serve as a blending base for barrels, a fresh base for adjuncts and occasionally a monster of a beer that encapsulates everything that our stout program has to offer. Next week we will be unveiling a new series that aims to showcase the latter category while also paying homage to a beautiful tradition in dessert coffee. This project is unique however in that there are three distinct threads of creativity working simultaneously to build towards the final result and we want to outline each of them here. Our head brewer, Brandon, will speak to the design of the base beer and the intention behind it, Chris, our graphic design and marketing manager, will speak to the inspiration for the artwork that will be used on the packaging as well as some killer upcoming merch drops and Josh, our partner coffee roaster at Mountain Dweller, will speak to the coffee that was sourced as well as the roast profile that was chosen for this iteration.
So let’s start with the overall inspiration for this project, a traditional Italian dessert coffee called Affogato. Traditional affogato blends an incredibly simple yet abundantly flavorful combination of vanilla gelato with freshly brewed espresso poured over the top. It’s a complex melding of temperature and texture differentials that evolves as you consume it, starting as more of an ice cream float and ending more like a mocha milkshake. There are a couple of distinctly prominent notes in affogato and the standouts are the viscosity of the body, the robust roast from the coffee and the delicate creaminess of the ice cream. We designed the beer with these at the top of our mind, so let’s jump into that piece first.
The base stout for this series is one of the biggest we’ve brewed to date with an original gravity of 38 Plato. If that number is meaningless to you, just take our word for it, it’s massive. This was important given that we wanted to emulate the viscosity of the affogato that comes from the melding of espresso and melting gelato. The next major note to address was the creaminess, naturally we saw it fitting to build a base with some lactose involved and we added to that with tahitian vanilla to really boost the “ice cream” character of the base beer. The final major flavor and perhaps the most obvious is coffee. Afoogato being about 50% espresso makes for a very roast forward and intense coffee character that’s buffered by the cream and sugar that the gelato provides. To truly get the character we’re looking for we escalated the coffee infusion dosage to about double the maximum that we’ve used to date with 2 LBS / BBL of coffee going into the beer just prior to packaging. Finally, for this first release we’ve decided to add a small accent to an otherwise very classic base by adding almond to the mix. The idea is to emulate an affogato amaretto, which combines coffee, espresso and a shot of amaretto. The resulting beer is a melange of intense roast, delicate creaminess and subtle nuttiness that will pair perfectly with cold winter days, apres adventures and after dinner treats.
Now that we’ve talked about the base beer, let’s jump over to Chris to discuss the design that he’s created for this new series:
The easy route for this label would have been to slap an illustration of affogato on a can and called it a day. But we wanted something different, that pushed the creative bar a bit and leaned into my love of all things monsters. Brandon had an idea of a goblin-like barista character pouring the affogato and I knew that was the only direction I wanted to explore.
For my process I spent a good amount of time researching and looking at reference art. There are so many different depictions of goblins throughout folklore and media it really gave me a lot to pull from. After I felt like I’ve gathered enough reference material I started sketching out very rough thumbnail sketches. These help me quickly develop the pose, composition and overall shape without getting distracted by the details.
Once I had a few thumbnails I liked I began to build on them, adding more details. I experimented with large pig ears, smooshed bat noses, fat fingers and razor sharp teeth. What I ended with was three different goblin sketches to present to our team. From there we selected our favorite and I began the process of building out a clean illustration. We actually went back and changed up the head after the first round of clean illustration was done, but the overall pose stayed the same. After that was nailed down it was just a matter of playing with a variety of color palettes and fitting the illustration into our label.
The final result is a sinister, goblin-bartender character who’s assembling the enticing dessert before our eyes. We sought with the art for this project to evoke playfulness, intensity and a hint of deviousness, we feel we’ve done a pretty stellar job on that end.
Last but certainly not least, we want to take a second and let Josh highlight some of the background on the coffee that he’s chosen for this iteration. As a quick background note, Josh is the owner and roaster at Mountain Dweller Coffee in Frisco and for each release he is sitting down with our head brewer, Brandon, to discuss the goals of each iteration and to select both a bean and a roast that will meld perfectly with each variant. Below are his notes for the roast he created for this beer that they’re calling Megafauna.
Producer(s): Various Smallholder Farmers
Region: Dari Kidame, Guji, Ethiopia
Taste: Raw Sugar Cane, Mango, Blueberry, Cedar
Dari Kidame is the name of the town where this coffee was grown and collected by small farmers in the region. The coffee is harvested and sold as whole cherry, then collectively processed at a privately run mill in Woreda Odo Shakisso, Western Guji.
Elevation at the farms range from 1850 to 2200 meters above sea level. Each lot produced is made up of coffee from hundreds of different farmers in the region, most with only a few hundred coffee trees or less.
Megafauna is also a Directly Traded coffee, meaning that our coffee broker has negotiated a price directly with the farmer(s) without any of the confusing export and import fees. Direct Trade is a simple principle that allows coffee producers to make premium prices in reward for coffee quality, and to reinvest to improve quality even more in the future.
Natural processing is the oldest coffee processing method still used and involves drying the coffee bean and cherry whole. The coffee must be spread out to a layer depth of only a few centimeters to allow air flow around each coffee cherry. The coffee is turned hourly, or even more frequently to facilitate even drying and keep the coffee from molding. It's not difficult but requires constant attention and love.
The fruit flavors found in Megafauna are much more well-integrated into the coffee's sweetness than a lot of other natural process coffees. This coffee offers a well-developed sweetness that has characteristics of raw cane sugar with fruited hints of mango, blueberry, chocolate, and a touch of cedar in the finish.
It’s been quite a journey following each of these threads to completion and arriving at next week feels much like reaching a finish line, however it’s really just the starting line for this new series. With everything we do here at New Image we are striving to build every project from the collective “best” we have to give from every department, we feel confident that we’ve done that with this impending release and we hope you’ve enjoyed taking a peek into the story behind the beer.