"There are so many coffee beers out there, I wanted to go the other way with coffee flavor and the beer behind it," says Grant Pauly, owner and brewmaster of 3 Sheeps Brewing. The Sheboygan-based brewery opened more than two years ago, and expanded its offerings last year with a new series of seasonal releases. Its latest is Hello, My Name Is Joe, a brew with a robust java taste that will wake up its drinkers
What is it? Hello, My Name Is Joe from 3 Sheeps Brewing Company of Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Style: Hello, My Name Is Joe doesn't fall neatly into a single beer style. It's a bigger, bolder version of Baaad Boy Black Wheat Ale, which is similar to a German Dunkelweizen.
Grant Pauly calls Joe an Imperial Black Wheat. It's a full-bodied beer that showcases Midnight Wheat, which gives the beer dark color and smooth roasted sweetness. Generally, dark wheat beers like dunkelweizens will range from 4% to 7% ABV. Expect more alcoholic strength and flavor in one that's labeled imperial.
As for coffee beers, they are usually created with very dark varieties like porters and stouts, and are generally medium- to full-bodied. The coffee can be introduced at any point in the brewing process, but is more commonly added during late stages of fermentation. Coffee beers usually do not have much in the way of hop flavors; any bitterness comes from the type of coffee used. These beers also come in a wide range of strengths, because the alcohol content reflects the malts used in the base-style of beer.
Background: The coffee used in Hello, My Name Is Joe was roasted specifically for 3 Sheeps by Colectivo Coffee in Milwaukee. "You definitely need to like coffee to appreciate this beer," says Pauly. "I love that flavor and always wanted to make a coffee beer."
Hello, My Name Is Joe brings the coffee forward early in the overall flavor profile -- it sticks around and never leaves. "We're all big coffee drinkers, so I thought it would be nice to do a beer that was coffee with a hint of beer," he says.
Beyond the coffee, Midnight Wheat is central to Joe's taste. It has its own chocolate, caramel, and roasted notes of coffee-like flavor, without the bitterness often associated with deeply malted barley. Joe gets much of its dark color from Midnight Wheat, yet it only makes up about 5% of the total grist. Pauly doesn't use any dark or chocolate malts, just the Midnight Wheat, along with white wheat and some brewer's base malts. He chose Columbus hops because of their aromatic qualities and light bitterness. In light amounts, these hops don't conflict with the coffee flavor.
Hello, My Name Is Joe was first introduced by 3 Sheeps in spring 2013 as a draught-only beer. The brewery released it again this spring in bottles, which started appearing on Madison shelves in early March. It ends up at 8% ABV and 13 IBUs, and sells for around $9 per four-pack. The beer is considered a seasonal, and should remain available well into May, when it will be followed in summer by First Kiss I.I.P.A., which is made with Wisconsin honey.
When it comes to coffee beers, 3 Sheeps also produces Cortado Imperial Stout for Colectivo Coffee Roasters on the Capitol Square in downtown Madison. (It was previously made by One Barrel Brewing, but demand for that beer outstripped the nanobrewery's capacity.) On Sunday, May 4, during Madison Craft Beer Week, 3 Sheeps staff will be at Colectivo on the Square to offer side-by-side tastes of Hello, My Name Is Joe and Cortado Imperial Stout alongside the coffees used to make each.
Business has been good for 3 Sheeps since it launched. The brewery was established in 2011, and the first bottled beers started arriving in Madison in late 2012, including Baaad Boy Black Wheat and Really Cool Waterslides IPA. Over the course of 2013, 3 Sheeps produced just over 2,200 barrels of beer. Last summer, the brewery engaged in a major expansion project, and this year Pauly says he expects to brew close to 7,000 barrels.
3 Sheeps will be dedicating a portion of its growing operation to a new line of 22-ounce bombers. Called Nimble Lips, Nobel Tongues, these brews are limited release creations that will run for $9-11 per bottle. Volume 1, released in February, was an Oaked IPA. Pauly says the next brew in the series, Volume 2, will be a sour beer aged with raspberries and oak for over five months. It's soured with Pediococcus (bacteria) and Brettanomyces (yeast), and should be available by the end of April.
- Aroma: Strong cold coffee aroma.
- Appearance: Black and thick-looking. A thick, soft tan head.
- Texture: Full bodied, with round mouthfeel.
- Taste: Lots of coffee up front and throughout. A malty and coffee sweetness adds to its smooth impression. Yet this beer has very assertive coffee flavor.
- Finish/Aftertaste: The taste of cold-brewed coffee.
Glassware: The Willi Becher with its inward taper near the rim does a nice job of showing off the black color of the beer and holding its thick soft head while focusing the aroma of coffee.
Pairs well with: Hello, My Name Is Joe has so much coffee flavor that it is probably best on its own. However, sweet treats can make nice companions with the smooth cold coffee flavor. Try it as dessert with peanut butter cookies or a scoop of high quality chocolate ice cream.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: Hello, My Name Is Joe is a beer that lets you know you're drinking coffee, first and foremost, as Pauly planned. My tastes tend to favor coffee brews that keep the beer forward and the coffee in the background. Still, I appreciate that Joe avoids the over-roasted or burnt tones sometimes found in other heavy coffee brews. It doesn't come off as astringent or overly bitter, and a hint of aromatic smokey-roastedness reminds me of freshly ground coffee beans. While the flavor of coffee is forward and assertive, Joe remains smooth and semi-sweet.