At a recent preview of the 2017 edition of the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, June 1-4, it was announced that breakfast would be a hot topic this year.
Excited by the thought, I wondered aloud if breakfast beers might make a good subject for a tasting session.
I should be careful what I wish for.
There will be Southern brewers on hand to discuss and debate the pleasures and pitfalls of morning beer. There will be some great Southern beers to sample, of course. And maybe even some local artisan doughnuts or bagels or muffins to munch on.
But the big question I need to answer before any of that happens is what is a breakfast beer?
One obvious answer is coffee stout, a style that’s become a craft beer staple since the origin of Breakfast Stout from Michigan’s Founders Brewing Co.
W-n-B (formerly known as Wake-n-Bake) from Athens’ Terrapin Beer Co. easily defines the robust style that’s become known as coffee oatmeal stout. It’s brewed with a special blend of Jittery Joe’s coffee, making it as dark as espresso and just as strong, but with enough malt sweetness and oatmeal smoothness to round it out. Terrapin even holds an annual Wake-n-Bake-off food event.
There’s only one problem. Because it’s a late fall to winter seasonal offering, W-n-B may be impossible to find in June. And that’s true of many other breakfast stouts.
One notable exception is Coffee Oatmeal Stout from Birmingham’s Good People Brewing Co. Available year-round on draft and in cans, and known as C-O-S by fans, it’s a take on British-style oatmeal stout with coffee and flavors and aromas of American hops. Better yet, at under 6 percent alcohol, it’s a surprisingly sessionable beer.
Speaking of sessionable, what about breakfast beers that are bright and juicy, rather than dark and strong?
Years ago, James Beard Award-winning Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver told me that one of his favorite pairings was a simple goat cheese omelet with a refreshing Belgian-style wheat beer.
More recently, Jason Pellett, one of the founders of Atlanta’s Orpheus Brewing Co., argued that something like his Serpent Bite dry-hopped sour saison was the ideal breakfast beer.
“I’ve always thought citrusy sours like Serpent Bite were more breakfast-like than stouts,” he said.
And, finally, what about having it all?
At the Funkatorium, a sour and barrel aging facility and tap room for Asheville’s Wicked Weed Brewing Co., you can find several iterations of sour-meets-coffee beers.
And if you want to go one more step beyond, there’s Silencio, a sour black ale aged in bourbon barrels and dosed with vanilla beans and local coffee.
Of course, Wicked Weed also makes French Toast Imperial Stout flavored with cinnamon, vanilla and maple syrup. But, alas, that’s a January limited release, too.