I love coffee and I love stouts. And when they're combined correctly they lift one another to new heights that they couldn't on their own, taking palates to new heights with them.

"All of our exhaustive research told us that the two flavors that lots of people hold dear," says Bob Baile, president and brewmaster of Twisted Pine Brewing in Boulder, "are coffee and beer." This was the inspiration for Big Shot Espresso Stout.

The beer pours deep and dark, absorbing light like a black hole. A lofty tan head exudes big notes of sweetened espresso, milk chocolate and syrupy caramel.

"We try to gain balance with all our beers," says Baile. That's easier said than done, especially in a beer such as an espresso stout, which takes finesse, but Baile and his crew manage to pull it off amazingly well.

While the coffee flavors and aromas excite, the soft carbonation counters with a soothing calmness. And right behind that chocolatey, sugarcoated roastiness is a subtle hop bitterness to balance things out.

In this award-winning beer, even the caffeine -- approximately one shot of espresso per bottle -- harmonizes with the 5.7-percent alcohol by volume.

"When we first set out to do this beer," says Baile, "we really wanted to work with a local supplier." Enter The Unseen Bean, 2052 Broadway, headed by master roaster Gerry Leary, who also purchases supplies from local sources as much as possible.


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After Leary performs his roasting magic, Twisted Pine soaks the coffee beans in cold water overnight, creating a Toddy coffee, which doesn't have the acids, bitterness or tannins of traditional hot extraction methods. This elixir is then added to the final product.

"The beer has an amazing nose," describes Kevin from ratebeer.com, "like being in a nice coffeehouse with a bowl of chocolate ice cream."

Which reminds me: In addition to coffee and stouts, I also love chocolate ice cream.