REVIEW: Imperial Java Stout from Santa Fe Brewing Company

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Santa Fe Brewery Company
Location: Santa Fe, NM
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 8.0%
Hops: Bravo & Fuggle
Appearance: Black with Brown Pancake-like Batter Foam
Aroma: Coffee, Chocolate and Hints of Malt Roastyness
Flavor: Cold Coffee, Sweet Malt
Availability: Year-Round
Pairs With: Desserts

I was bouncing around town, stopping in at the different places that have decent beer selections with the burning question of what to do this week’s review on, when I wondered into the “local fares” selection and suddenly the thought it me, “Why not?” “Why not, review something local for a change.”

So I took some time (a lot) scrutinizing the New Mexico brews (you can never take too much time in making a careful survey and selection of what you will partake of for the next week). After what certain uninformed people might call an inordinate amount of shelf browsing, I decided on this robust-looking offering from Santa Fe Brewing Company.

Santa Fe Brewing Company is the oldest brewery in New Mexico. It reopened in 1988… that’s right reopened. The name was first incorporated back 1882, but unfortunately, closed up after 10 years, and only 22 years before probation hit. In 1988 Mike Lewis, after obtaining some unused custom made open top fermentation vessels, revived the Santa Fe name for another go at its already established brewing tradition.

This beer comes in a pretty simple, unassuming canned six-pack. This is part of the breweries “green initiative,” along with the recycled and completely reusable plastic six-pack carrier, which can actually be returned to the brewery and reused. On the can the Brewery’s humor shows through the simple design with a coffee cup on one side and the words “before noon”, while on the other side is a beer mug and the words “after noon.” A serious warning “Not For Use With Donuts” is also printed across the bottom of the can.

The Pour and Aroma

“Seek ye the enchanted trail, in search of brewing grail and find ye here a goodly stout with brazen coffee clout.”

There was a satisfying hiss of CO2 leaving its confines when I pull the tab on the can. It poured like blackness turned liquid. I poured it straight down the middle of my pint glass and quickly had a serious bit of head foam to wait out. This one is oh-so-dark and sits in the glass like a black-hole, like the soul-shattering darkness of Dad’s old and true campfire, cowboy coffee.

When held directly up to bright daylight, its smooth onyx deep depths seemingly swallow all surrounding, color creating light, letting non whether it’s pit. Even the edges hold no light, no amber glints, or glimmers of dark mahogany here. This is a stout as black as stouts come. The brown pancake-like batter foam reminded me of the spume that would collect in the eddies of suddenly swollen waters during our summer rains.

Imperial Java Stout

The sweet bitterness of coffee trails out of its depth and hits pleasantly hard. Chocolate tracks coffee, like a shy friend at a wild party, accenting the “coolness” of coffee by being the geek, but never really finding his own true footing. There are also hints of malt roastyness happening, more burnt then caramel, but it fits nicely with the big coffee and chocolate (like an even geeker friend).

Mouthfeel and Taste

This is about the Coffee’est (just adding to the dictionary left and right here) coffee stout I’ve ever tried. The mouthfeel is medium-heavy, mouth-coating, and coffee-bitter. Just like the aroma, coffee plays main role here, and I’m surprised how much this beer imparts the cold coffee flavor… my girlfriend took a sip and, without batting an eye, likened it to an alcoholic moacha….

Yeah think they hit the “coffee” side of this stout squarely on the head. The roast and burn of dark malt accompany the coffee on its tour of the palate, while sweet malt races along throwing itself at the bitterness like a small but very determined foe. Everywhere the Coffee coolly props itself against the wall, trying hard to look casual with his friend Bitterness; Sweet runs along pausing for a passing moment in Coffee’s wake (Everywhere that Coffee went Sweet was sure to go), smoothing this beer out nicely. Aftertaste isn’t as drying as some stouts, but it is bitter, a mingling of coffee, and the two hop verities used, creates a pleasing after-show bite.

Finishing The Impression

Did I mention the coffee in this beer? Good. Well, let me just reiterate here, the coffee is amazing. According to the Santa Fe Brewing website they use a blend of East Timor and New Guinea coffee that is then locally roasted at O’hori’s Coffee house. No matter how they are doing it they got something right. This beer won the 2007 Best of the Rockies beer tasting championships and in 2013 was both, a celebrity pick at the New Mexico Beer cup and honorably mentioned at the US beer tasting championships. But let’s face it, it’s almost cheating when you put so much coffee goodness into an already wealthy palate of aromas and tastes. Who could resist?

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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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