Beer Review 0490: Big Boss Aces & Ates Coffee Stout


Big Boss Brewing Company is located in Raleigh, North Carolina. Started in 2006, the company is a collaboration between Geoff Lamb, a University of North Carolina graduate, and Brad Wynn, former brewer for Victory, Wild Goose, and Native Brewing Companies.

Big Boss does not use artificial preservatives, additives, or pasteurization. They have a year-round and a seasonal line; Aces & Ates falls in the seasonal lineup.

Released only in November and December on draft, Aces & Ates was brought to bottles in a very limited release for the first time in 2012. The beer is a Coffee Stout and uses fair trade cold-brewed beans from the Sidama region of Ethiopia, roasted by Larry’s Beans, located in close proximity to the brewery. Grounds from the beans are soaked in cold water for 24 hours, then filtered, and the liquid is added to the beer. The particular bean picked has fruity nuances to it and is supposed to enhance the dark fruit flavors found in the beer before the coffee is added. Aces & Ates falls right on the regular Stout vs Imperial Stout line, hitting 8% ABV (alcohol by volume), but the company is sticking with it just being a Stout and not Imperial, so we will, too.


Pouring made for a small, fast diminishing head that was sudsy and dark tan. The color of the beer was pitch black with just a small edge of lighter brown cola color on the edges. While pouring, the body seemed clear to be, and I didn’t notice any huge chunks of particles or sediment, but the bottom of the bottle did have a little yeast sediment. Lacing was patchy and nothing to write home about.

The nose is where Aces & Ates shines; there’s loads of chocolate, coffee, and dark fruits, and it all harmonizes together very well. It’s roasty and the coffee has a subtle hint of smoke as well as berry fruits; the fruity aspect enhances the raisins, figs, and prunes going on, and the backing layer of thick, smooth dark chocolate is nice. Initially, there was a faint whiff of marshmallow fluff, but as it warms, the coffee tends to come out more and mask the overly sweet layers. It’s a sweet scent but the toasted and roasted notes come through and balance it out.


To the palate, we’re presented with solid hits of coffee and dark fruits; the opening notes of this beer are extremely tasty as the lighter, fruity notes of the coffee mingle with dry raisin and prune. Then, the coffee gets stronger and darker, overtaking everything else for the moment; the finish comes on with a fresh hit of black coffee and a fudgey, bittersweet dark chocolate. There isn’t much variety in the flavor, but the finish continues on long and strong. Aces & Ates is full-bodied, with a medium, creamy texture.

I think breweries are on to something with these cold brewing techniques when it comes to coffee — yeah, the coffee is a prominent figure in this beer, but it also plays an enhancing role to just about every other flavor naturally found in the other ingredients. This is a solid brew that just lacks a little something or other, keeping it from being amazing. And it’s a bit on the pricey side.

Big Boss Aces & Ates Coffee Stout, 91 points. Price: $4.75 US for one 12 oz. bottle.



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