Maybe these beers are a bit of a mind game. They have the aromas and flavors of darker beers like stouts and barleywines, but are brilliantly golden in color. How? Some use coffee beans, maple syrup and cocoa nibs—but not dark malts—to achieve the deep flavors minus the inky hue. Stone Brewing Co. made a splash with the golden stout it brewed last year (aptly named Master of Disguise), but it’s not the only brewery to move stouts and coffee beers away from the dark side.
Carton Regular Coffee
In Carton Brewing’s home state of New Jersey, if you order a “regular coffee,” you won’t get a black cup o’ joe; instead, it comes sweetened with milk and two sugars. The brewery teamed up with neighbor Fair Mountain Coffee Roasters to replicate “a paper cup of crappy coffee light and sweet,” adding Mexican Chiapas and Ethiopian Sidamo beans to a rich 12% sweetened imperial cream ale base. The result is a marshmallow-sweet, gold-colored pour with a Kahlua-leaning, coffee finish. Look for it again in January, along with its Irish coffee variant.
Goose Island Fulton Street Blend
If you visit the brewery’s Chicago taproom on the right days, the entire block smells like roasting coffee. That’s thanks to Intelligentsia Coffee’s roastery, a next-door neighbor. Brewers “drybean” (like dry-hopping, but with coffee) this beer’s base golden ale with Intelligentsia’s House Blend, adding both sweet coffee aromatics and a caramel latte flavor grounded in earthy roast.
Firestone Walker Helldorado
If you sipped this blonde, bourbon barrel-aged version of an English-style barleywine while blindfolded, you’d never guess at its lighter hue. It mimics the cherry, sherry and warming alcohol of a young, brawny barleywine. The lightest-colored beer to come from the Paso Robles, Calif. brewery’s barrel program, it’s brewed with only one malt: Maris Otter, responsible for that orangey, golden color.
Armadillo Ale Works Brunch Money
There’s plenty of breakfast flavor packed into this Denton, Texas-made golden stout brewed with maple syrup, oats and milk sugar. The soft sip captures all that’s delicious about a big, weekend brunch—maple syrup, vanilla creaminess, some warmth from the 10% ABV—while milk chocolate dances around the edges. Look for the beer on draft and in bottles on a more regular basis when the brewery expands its production facility next year.
James Page JP’s Casper
Consider yourself lucky to catch this white stout on nitro draft; if you can’t, the cans are the next best thing. A Pilsen malt base explains the light hue; aging the beer for two weeks with cocoa nibs and coffee imparts a milk chocolate sweetness and subtly roasty depth. But the true feat of brewing here is the silky body and satisfyingly medium-full mouthfeel