I got an early preview of Oscura a month ago at a Furthermore Beer SH*##y Barn Party. Interestingly, the postcard invitation and various websites describing the event offered no directions nor address, only the advice, "Just ask anyone in Spring Green and they'll know." So in the spirit of having a beer adventure I took off on a warm Saturday evening. I figured the local ice cream shop might have a few parents hanging out there who would have just the information I was seeking. This was a good choice, because the first persons I talked with, including their kids, all knew exactly where to send me -- and I also got a scoop of mint chocolate chip that matched wonderfully well with the new beer on tap at the party.
What is it? Oscura from Furthermore Beer.
Style: This beer begins as dark Mexican lager, and is transformed when coffee beans are added to the cold brew during the final stages of fermentation. A dark Mexican lager typically has deep reddish amber to bronze color and a pleasant balance of malty sweetness with hoppy bitterness. Dark Mexican and other Latin American lagers, like the well known Negra Modelo, find their origins in breweries established by central European immigrants from places like Vienna and Munich, who recreated their favorite brews of their homelands.
Background: Oscura is made with 100% fair trade coffee from the La FEM Grower's Cooperative of Nicaragua and roasted by Just Coffee of Madison. Furthermore brewer and co-founder Aran Madden formulated the recipe with 30 pounds of whole coffee beans that were added to the beer in final fermentation. An addition of flaked maze softens the beer's texture, but there is still plenty of dry coffee flavor to be found.
Madden, says he was striving for the feeling you get in the morning when you tear open that fresh bag of coffee. "There nothing sexier than coffee and beer, and when they are together it's even more intoxicating," he says. Madden and his partner Chris Staples made about 40 barrels, which will net a little more than 350 cases of Oscura, so they are looking to see how well it'll do before they commit to saying when it'll be offered again.
Furthermore Beer is based in Spring Green but its creations are brewed on contract by Sand Creek Brewing of Black River Falls. The young brewery has a reputation for challenging the beer senses with big full-flavored brews like the spicy Fatty Boombalatty and cracked pepper notes found in their Knot Stock pale. Oscura is the newest addition to their brazen lineup, its name a Spanish reference to the dark, coffee color of the beer.
- Aroma: Assertive, roasted coffee.
- Appearance: Hazy, deep bronze with a thick soft tan head.
- Texture: Full bodied and round.
- Taste: Sweet malty beginning with a roasted background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Sweetness, yet the coffee flavors are even stronger in the finish.
Glassware: This beer deserves a clear glass mug to show off its color while leaving with you the hand-feel of a cup of coffee in the morning.
Pairs well with: Some might be tempted to mix something smoky or roasted with this beer, but the beer is really too assertive to suggest something that will compete with the coffee. Instead, try foods that will compliment it, such as with non-smoked cheeses, including a sharp well-aged cheddar. Even a Gouda would go well. An entree that would match with this beer includes a heavy stew. Then again, the coffee in Oscura is distinctive, so perhaps make it a complete breakfast with bacon and eggs!
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Consensus: This beer has not received enough rating to be evaluated by Beer Advocate nor Rate Beer.
The Verdict: Oscura deserves the attention of those who enjoy roasted flavors in their beer. It's a brew that grows on you, and indeed offers some of the seductive coffee aroma and flavor that Madden was looking to achieve. A firm sweet maltiness backbone is there, and is complimented by underlying notes of toffee. While at the Barn Party, I examined a bag of coffee from the La FEM Cooperative with a slogan that made me smile as I quaffed this beer: "Taste me and know true love." How fitting!