It looks like a beer, has the creamy mouth feel of a stout, and is available at the bar. But Austin-based Cuvee Coffee Roastery’s Black and Blue isn’t a beer at all: it’s cold-brewed coffee that mimics the frothiness of a Guinness the same way they do it in Dublin: with nitrogen.
“Cold coffee has been around for a long time and even coffee on tap is not original,” says Cuvee Coffee Founder and CEO Mike McKim. “The inspiration for nitrogen came the first time I experienced Lefthand [Brewing] Milkstout on nitro in a bottle.”
Like Lefthand Brewing’s Milkstout on nitrogen, Black and Blue poured into a glass cascades like a waterfall as it settles. Drinkers who let this process reach its end are rewarded with a frothy head and a velvety texture that coats the mouth as you drink—just as you might expect from boozy stout. There’s no alcohol in this brew though, just caffeine.
“We’ve established the standard that everyone tries to achieve now, so it’s really exciting that it happened here in Austin,” McKim said.
At Cuvee’s roastery just outside of Austin, gigantic coffee roasting machines sit side-by-side with sparklingly clean metal brewing vessels or “mash tuns,” the same kind of equipment you’d see at a brewery. Dozens of five-gallon kegs are lined up at a washing station ready for more coffee. The newest piece of hardware at Cuvee is a canning machine.
Cuvee Coffee is not the only company to produce nitrogenated, cold-brew coffee. Portland-based Stumptown Coffee, for example, offers their cold-brew on nitro at Stumptown Cafes and wholesale to businesses that they distribute to. But McKim says Cuvee has taken coffee on nitro to the next level by being the first to make it available in widget cans. When opened, these cans agitate their contents and produce a creamy texture in much the same way a can of Guinness does.
A can of Black and Blue will set you back about $4 or roughly the same price as a grande latte at Starbucks. Cuvee curates a list of locations across Texas where Black and Blue is available on draught and in cans.
To determine how to put cold-brew coffee on nitro into cans, McKim reached out to the folks who inspired him to add nitro in the first place: Colorado-based breweries Oskar Blues and Lefthand Brewing.
“There are a lot of parallels between specialty coffee and craft beer in terms of a lot of the flavor profiles,” says Lefthand Brewing Head Brewer Ro Guenzel. “There are a lot of similarities between a coffee and a stout or a porter.”
When asked if the idea of asking a bartender to pour you a cup of coffee sounds strange, Guenzel said, “No, I think it’s a great thing. It’s an option. When I go out, I don’t always want a big, alcoholic, 12 percent imperial stout. Sometimes I want a little pick-me-up.”