Beer Review 0229: Tröegs JavaHead Stout

Tröegs Brewing Company, based in Hershey, Pennsylvania, was founded and is run by the Trogner brothers, Chris and John, who are 18 months in age apart. The two were inspired by craft beer around the same time, but there was a problem: Chris was located in Boulder, Colorado, while John was in Pennsylvania.

John was in the real estate business when the passion for beer hit. Chris sought skiing and college opportunities in Colorado, right in the middle of that region’s brewery boom of the mid ’90’s. After many phone calls, John packed bags and moved to Boulder, and got a job cleaning tanks at a brewery. He also attended brewing classes at University of California at Davis.

Chris later learned the art of brewing by going to England, taking classes at the University of Sunderland. But when Tröegs was founded, in 1996, it meant going back home for both brothers. Tröegs is a family nickname, in case you were wondering. The brewery has a limited distribution to just nine states in the US, with no current plans to expand.

JavaHead Stout is based on Tröegs recipe for Oatmeal Stout, and uses locally roasted (Linglestown, Pennsylvania) espresso and coffee beans. After the wort is boiled, it passes through what Tröegs calls a “hopback vessel,” which is like a giant French press that is filled with whole leaf hops and a bed of ground coffee beans. Coming in at 7.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 60 IBUs (International Bitterness Units), the malts used for  this brew are Pilsner, Crystal, Chocolate, and Roast Juju. The hops are Cluster, Chinook, and Cascade. JavaHead is a year-round offering and should be easily available.

The pour issued a large, slightly off-white head, creamy and lasting. The beer, while being a stout, was actually a very dark brown (not black) and was clear of particles or sediment. You couldn’t see through the glass, but holding it up to the light revealed a small amount of daylight visible. Lacing, as expected, was excellent, since this is brewed with oats.

For a coffee beer, the aroma was off — there wasn’t hardly any coffee present; there was mostly dark chocolate, and that was faint, at best. There was a note of caramel and a general sweetness, along with some dark fruits, like raisin and prune. Then, there’s the off-scent: a soapy whiff that strikes the nose up front. I also detected a pinch of brown sugar. Not the most appetizing scent in the world, for sure.

On the taste, the coffee comes out, bright and bold, front and center. The middle of the sip turns sweet with chocolate that borders the line between milk and dark, and the mouthfeel was solidly medium and creamy. This leads to a finish which hits a strong coffee, softens a bit in the middle with more of that milk/dark chocolate, and finally concludes on a moderately bitter note that has that sharp, acidic coffee bite to it.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at things), Tröegs have made an average coffee beer. I thought the finish was too bitter, and the lack of complexity was a bit baffling. This is an odd beer — you get no coffee in the aroma, but lots of it on the taste, and none of the dark fruits found in the aroma appear on the palate. This one lacks complexity, and it’s a shame, because the mouthfeel is very nice. I probably won’t seek this out again.

Tröegs JavaHead Stout, 82 points. Price: $2.25 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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