Beer Review: Carton Brewing’s Cafe Revolver

Name: Cafe Revolver
Brewing Company: Carton Brewing Company
Location: Atlantic Highlands, NJ
Style: Cream Ale | Imperial Cream Ale
ABV: 12%

Another outstanding entry in Carton Brewing’s “Regular Coffee Game” – A Must Try

Carton_CafeRevolver

From Carton Brewing’s landing page for the beer:

Imperial Cream Ale Aged In Bourbon Barrels w/ Orange Bitters: 12% | IBU: 20 | SRM: 5

Café Revolver is a continuation of the Regular Coffee game. Our golden imperial coffee cream ale has been finished on Bourbon barrels with orange bitters. Much like Regular Coffee looks to evoke an amusing version of the acidic bitter coffee curbed by milk and sugar that starts a day in a paper cup, Cafe Revolver addresses it on the other end of the day. A beer rendition of a modern Revolver cocktail, sweet coffee and bourbon’s richness defined by a dash of aromatic orange bitters, lending a subtle brightness to the darker tones. Drink Cafe Revolver and take your best shot.

Carton Brewing becomes the first brewery with a 4th feature review here at the Tap Takeover with a version of one of their more highly sought after offerings. Every New Year’s Day (or thereabouts) Augie Carton and his crew release cans of an “Irregular Coffee,” a variant of their flagship cream ale, Regular Coffee. Regular Coffee is their interpretation of morning coffee in the form of a Cream Ale – milk sugar and coffee are added to the base beer of a cream ale. One of the 2021 versions of Irregular Coffee is Café Revolver, the beer interpretation of the Revolver cocktail, which is Bourbon, orange bitters, and coffee liqueur. For this beer, Carton aged Regular coffee in bourbon barrels along with orange bitters with the goal of evoking that evening, sipping cocktail. Or a “coffee on the other end of the day.”

I like bourbon quite a lot (my favorite spirit), I like the flavor of coffee, and I’ve enjoyed 7 versions of “Regular Coffee” including the original prior to Café Revolver, but this one is the first I’ve had that has a barrel aging element.

IrregularCoffe
The only variant not pictured is Irish Coffee, I had a few tasters of it years ago at the 2015 Garden State Brewfest, but haven’t been fortunate enough to have it since then.

Pouring the beer into my Carton glass, I get some aromas of bourbon. The beer is a little murkier looking than other Irregular Coffee variants I’ve enjoyed, which is neither negative or positive. Just the way I see it. There are more flavor elements so the beer’s murkiness makes sense.

The first sip gives me the sweetness from the lactose, but the bourbon soon envelopes everything. The orange bitters are an assertive flavor component, but that element plays extremely well with the bourbon. As it should considering bitters are part of many, many bourbon-based cocktails. The coffee elements are the underlying flavor holding all the elements together. Halfway through the 12oz can, I’m thoroughly enjoying this fun and tasty beer, all those elements come together in a very cohesive, elegant fashion.

I’ve always been impressed by how many of Carton’s beers are inspired by food or other non-beer things like cocktails. What’s even more impressive is how despite this beer emulating a bourbon cocktail (or a doppelbock brewed with coffee beans substituting the hops, for another example) yet the beer remains undeniably, well, a beer.

Café Revolver does just that. It is undeniably a beer, but the elements of the cocktail play the base beer extremely well. Specifically, the elements of Regular Coffee are distinct and give the beer its dominant character. The cocktail elements are damned fine complement to what fans of Regular Coffee like myself, have come to expect. I can’t rank this one against the original, but my favorite variant is Café Y’ Churro. In speaking to Augie during our visit, he said a lot of people consider that their favorite, because people love cinnamon. He isn’t wrong. I’d say Cafe Revolver is in the top half of the Irregular Coffee beers I’ve had, but again, they are all spectacular beers.

To paraphrase the Carton motto that closes out the beer description on the cans of most of their beers, drink Cafe Revolver because it is a delicious, fun, and playful beer.

Highly Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Carton_CafeRevolver

Beer Review: Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co’s Kentucky Coffee Barrel Cream Ale

Name: Kentucky Coffee Barrel Cream Ale
Brewing Company: Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company
Location: Lexington, KY
Style: Cream Ale
ABV: 5.5%

An extremely interesting beer with a balance of complementary flavors.

From Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company’s page for the beer:

The brewers at Lexington Brewing Co. took a traditional cold-conditioned cream ale brewed with flaked corn and added our own Haitian coffee to the mix. After resting in fresh bourbon barrels from some of Kentucky’s premier distillers, Kentucky Coffee Barrel Cream Ale becomes a sessionable beer packed with flavor. Big, bold notes of coffee on the nose and palate give way to a smooth finish of bourbon grains and oak. Subtle notes of vanilla and caramel complement this beer from time spent in the barrel.

Some might say the “Cream Ale” is one of the few wholly American created styles of beer, a light, easy drinking style that has some lager characteristics. Generally, Cream Ales can be sweet and refreshing. Personally, I haven’t had very many Cream Ales (most are the Coffee variants from Carton Brewing), but I find the style fairly tasty. In other words, yet another style for me to explore, oh the horror!

As for this Cream Ale from Lexington Brewing it is a very interesting beer. When I did one of my regular beer swaps with my Dad, this beer really intrigued me. From what I’ve gathered, all the beers produced by Lexington Brewing are barrel-aged and they brew across multiple styles.

Enough preamble, time for the actual beer, right?

The beer looks golden with some slight amber hints, but the wood floor where the beer is placed in the photo above is probably reflecting in the beer. Additionally, I’m guessing those reddish/amber hints are from the coffee and aging in bourbon barrels. There’s definitely a coffee aroma wafting off the beer, a welcoming aroma.

I get an immediate hit of coffee intermingled with the beer, which makes for an impressively complex initiation into the beer. Lots of coffee throughout the beer, but it isn’t extremely dominant. Complementing the coffee is the sweetness the bourbon barrel aging lends to the beer. Since a Cream Ale is made with more corn than most beers, there’s a natural sweetness to the style. Coffee is a naturally bitter flavoring component, so the two elements can potentially work against each other but actually balance each other, while the bourbon barrel characteristics brings it all together.

There’s a slight bitterness at the end that was a slightly counter to the sweetness I was getting from most of the beer. That might be the only slightly negative element of the beer.

Aside from the complex flavors, what I appreciate most about the beer is the alcohol level – 5.5% ABV where most barrel aged beers are closer to 10%. I’ve only had a few beers from barrels that were even below 7%. Lexington’s ability to coax as much barrel sweetness into the beer, while also maintaining both the beer’s original flavor and the coffee hints while keeping this beer at a lower, “sessionable” ABV is very impressive.

Hard not to compare a Coffee Cream Ale to Carton’s Regular Coffee especially as I live in New Jersey, but I’ll just say even though the styles are the same, they are different beers completely. Lexington’s Kentucky Coffee Barrel Cream Ale is flavorful and worth a try.

Recommended.

Link to Untappd 4-Bottle Cap rating, – a push from 3.75 to 4 for the interesting nature of the beer.