Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

27 January, 2016

A Nice Pair: Sumatra by 3rd Sign Brewing



As I mentioned last month when reviewing 3rd Sign's Madagascar, the brewery's motto is "Dually Brewed" and its logo is the zodiacal symbol Gemini, the Twins. And so they take on beer styles in pairs. Madagascar is a vanilla mild ale and its companion brew is called Sumatra, a coffee mild ale.

As I also noted last month 3rd Sign Brewery is the in-house label of Octopi Brewing. Octopi is located in nearby Waunakee (the only Waunakee in the world, mind you) and devotes itself to contract brewing. 3rd Sign allows the crew at Octopi to flex their muscles and showcase their talents for prospective customers; it gets a product on store shelves and gives thirsty patrons of Octopi's tasting room something to drink.

The beer pours a lovely medium dark mahogany that is quite clear. I managed only a small tan head that went away rather quickly which seems to be typical of the style. There was a medium amount of bubbles inside going upwards.

Sumatra contains cold pressed coffee from the eponymous Indonesian island by way of Madison's JBC Coffee Roasters and you can't miss it in the aroma. Taking a whiff my nose was struck by the big rush of fresh, strong coffee. There was a little malt sweetness in there as well but the nose was all about the coffee which smelled wonderful.

The coffee was right there to greet my tongue too. While I generally like African coffees the best because of their earthy, chocolatey tastes, I also enjoy Sumatran coffees. They tend to not be as earthy tasting as African ones, but more so than South American coffee which often have brighter, vaguely fruity flavors. In this beer, the coffee tasted fresh and the brewers did not skimp on the joe. While there was plenty of coffee flavor, it was complemented by some light toffee from the malt as well as just enough grassy hop flavor to let you know it's there. The hops didn't give much bitterness but the carbonation added a hint of acidity and tanginess. The beer had a pretty clean flavor overall.

The wonderful coffee flavor lingered on the finish while those grassy hop flavors swelled and added some bitterness to the picture. My glass was left with a moderate amount of lacing including some nice thick strands of foam.

Sumatra emphasizes the coffee a bit more than Madagascar did its vanilla. The coffee comes on very strong at first but it mellows out as you continue to drink. It remains out front but find eventually the other flavors find complementary spots on your tongue. While the balance of the flavors is shifted a bit, you do get a fantastic fresh coffee taste full of earthy and nutty tones that are simply delicious. I also really enjoyed the grassy hop flavor. It was a nice contrast to the coffee as well as the toffee flavor of the malt. This beer is 4.5% A.B.V. and is very easy drinking. The coffee never overwhelms so you can quaff a few Sumatrans in your next session.

Junk food pairing: The coffee means that Sumatra will go well with some sweets such as dark chocolate-covered pretzels or a Take 5 bar. On the savory side try some Extra Toasty Cheez-Its. Those additional Maillard reactions will play well with the coffee on your tongue.

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|| Palmer, 5:55 AM

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