Beer of the Week: NW Peaks Early Morning Espresso Stout

By Iron Chef Leftovers

untitle8dFebruary was stout month for NW Peaks and we got a returning favorite in Stuart and a new beer – Early Morning Espresso Stout. This beer is brewed with beans from Ballard Coffee Works, who are one of the places around Seattle that you can find NW Peaks beers, so this was a collaborative effort as well as the first time that NW peaks is brewing a coffee beer. I was excited as it was a combination of a brewery I love and a coffee roaster that produces some of the best quality beans in the city.

From the NW Peaks website:

The Name. The mountain. Early Morning Spire is set in a magical location of the Eldorado, Inspiration, and Mcallister glaciers. It is actually situated slightly off the glaciers in Marble cirque. Early Morning Spire offers great rock climbing in a remote place, so remote that it is best to take 3-4 days to climb (the approach is via Eldorado – nearly summiting – over a col into the marble cirque). While it has great rock routes, Early Morning spire can be done as a scramble, although getting from the glacier to solid rock might be treacherous depending on conditions. The name derives itself from a group that had to bivy near the summit (cold, unprepared), which caused them to summit just after first light.

The Espresso. We made this an espresso stout so what better name than Early Morning Espresso Stout – two of our favorite beverages made into one. We collaborated with one of our great customers – Seattle Coffee Works (Ballard Coffee Works) who puts out one of the finest products in the Seattle area. In the end, we chose to use their Emerald City toddy – delicious by itself – to accentuate the flavor and aroma of the coffee.

The Beer. Early Morning Espresso Stout was brewed to feature the coffee from Seattle coffee works. The base beer has a mild roast character, low body, and slight sweetness to support the espresso. The espresso flavor is at the forefront and brings in minimal acidity and coffee astringency. Instead, the cold toddy really adds to the flavor and aroma of the beer without contributing any harshness or excessive acidity. The result is a 5% ABV smooth, light bodied, light roasty stout with a great espresso flavor and aroma. Watch out, there will be a lot more caffeine in a pint than other versions, making it a great choice to have at first light.


The beer pours jet black with a beautiful tan head and eye-popping notes of roasted malt and ground espresso dominating the nose with just barely perceptible notes of chocolate hiding in the background. The beer starts out slowly, with hints of sugar, milk chocolate and light fruit notes before giving way to building coffee profile – it starts out mellow before becoming a deep, rich espresso. The bold coffee slowly fades into the finish, joined by a barely perceptible bitterness, touches of milk chocolate, caramel and malt coupled with a silky mouth feel. Coffee is definitely the star of this beer but it knows when to give way to the other flavors, producing a deep, rich beer. In talking to the head brewer about this beer, he would have liked to dial the coffee back just a bit to let the beer stand out more, but I think the balance was nice to the point that this beer would be an easy sell to even those who don’t like coffee beers.

NW Peaks Early Morning Espresso Stout hits the snooze button with 5 alarm clocks out of 5.

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