REVIEW: Espresso Amber from Peak Organic Brewing Co.

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Peak Organic Brewing Co.
Location: Portland, ME
Style: Amber
ABV: 7%
IBUs: 22
Appearance: Red-Orange Copper
Aroma: Coffee with Hints of Nut & Caramel
Flavor: Strong Espresso with a Malty Backbone
Availability: Year-Round
Pairs With: BBQ, Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream, Double Chocolate Brownies

I am a big supporter of organic and sustainable brewing. Few people could argue that eating as close to a natural source of food as possible is not healthier for us. This means picking foods with as few ingredients as possible and veering away from products that have unpronounceable ingredients in them. This idea definitely extends into any food crop.

When that crop is sprayed with some sort of chemical or genetically modified in some way, that is going away from the natural. I’m not trying to say here that all genetically modified foods are bad, all I’m doing is saying it is a movement away from their natural state and, at least for me, eating foods that are not sprayed or modified (when possible) is preferred. I say when possible because obviously I don’t just drink organic beer and, though I do eat mostly organic, even this is limited.

These same principles seem to be what drives Peak Organic Brewing Company in Portland Maine. Even when Jon Cadoux started out brewing at home he felt a responsibility to practice this ethic of sustainability. When he decided to take the plunge and try brewing commercially he saw no reason to change this guiding principal.

“Come coffee with boisterous bounce, and fill ambered-liquid, every ounce.”

This idea of brewing sustainably has put Peak Brewing in close collaborative relationships with local farmers and artisan food purveyor, along with bigger sustainability organizations. Peak Organic is the first Fair Trade Certified™ beer to be brewed in the United States. Their close partnership with local farmers allowed them to help with the reemergence of hop farming in Maine. A crop with no serious cultivation, in that state, since 1880.

I was intrigued by this beer. It is an amber, not a beer usually associated with the use of coffee as an ingredient. Like most of Peak Organic’s beers Espresso Amber is a collaborative effort. The Brewery went to their friends at Coffee By Design when they were in need locally roasted organic fair trade espresso. The label also says this beer is a partnership with Transfair, a non-profit that supports community wide sustainable and environmental stewardship practices and a fair, livable wage for farmers.

Peak Organic Espresso Amber

Pretty cool stuff to be involved in.

The Pour and Aroma

Pours a great copper color, like the washed out red/orange of a blanket of fall leaves. A nice deep two inch head rolls to the top and sticks around for most of the beer. Lacing is very noticeable and nicely stepped after each sip.

Coffee makes up the bulk of the aroma. Nut and caramel peak around the edges, its slight, but gives the aroma character beyond the heavy espresso.

Mouthfeel and Taste

The sip shows the truth in pairing a medium bodied beer with smooth dark coffee. This is not a thick porter or stout and you’d almost think the bittering and strong taste of espresso wouldn’t carry well without something dark and dense. It works great here. It’s smooth, lively, and it almost seems I can tell the quality of the coffee used.

The taste, like the aroma, carries the coffee high. But there is some ground to explore here. There is a nice malt backbone for the coffee to wash over. Some subtle honey sweetness, and understated hints of bitter chocolate.

The swallow brings bitter bite to the fore, no doubt a blending of hop and coffee. Aftertaste is astringent, mouthcoating, and just begs for another sip.

Overall Impressions

A great beer. The coffee is expressive and smooth, though I do have to say the larger bottle turned out to be almost too much coffee for one sitting.

We’ve probably all drank those beers that are great out of the bottle, but about halfway through the flavors get to be too big and it sort of overwhelms and deadens the senses. This can be one of those beers.

It was on this occasion. Maybe on another evening it wouldn’t be, but this possibility makes it a great bottle to share between friends or sip on over a couple nights.


More Beer Reviews:

Nick Carr

About Author

Nicoli Carr has been tinkering with homebrewing for over 10 years and graduated from the American Brewers Guild (CBA) Craft Brewers program in 2014. When he’s not busy freelance writing, he is likely out foraging wild brewing options, writing, or hunting stillness in remote places. You can contact him through his website

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