Big Bad Baptist by Epic Brewing Co. is more than just a dessert beer. It IS the dessert! If you haven’t had the pleasure, listen up. It’s an Imperial stout brewed with coffee and cocoa nibs, then aged in bourbon barrels. The result is a 12% abv beer with a coffee mocha flavor and a little boozy sweetness thanks to the bourbon. You can enjoy this beer with any dessert you’d drink a cup of coffee with. Think pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner. It would be great as a stout float with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Or, just enjoy a nice snifter full after dinner. You don’t really need more than that for dessert!
Big Bad Baptist starts with Epic’s Imperial Stout as a base. This beer has a lot of dark chocolate and coffee notes along with a rich, toasted malt aroma and flavor. Its 7 different malts make it an exceptionally high gravity beer. Added to the base are cocoa nibs and dark roasted coffee, usually an espresso style, acquired from local coffee roasters. There are actually multiple distinctive batches each year that use coffee from different local roasters. This year, in Salt Lake City, there are three versions of Big Bad Baptist: Ibis, Blue Copper, and La Barba.
Caffe Ibis is a family run business located in Logan, Utah and known for its “green” practices. They specialize in Certified Organic, Fair Trade, and Smithsonian Shade Grown “Bird-Friendly” coffee. Blue Copper is a small batch roaster started by a couple of coffee loving guys about two years ago and has a coffee room in the heart of Salt Lake City along with a bicycle cart that makes deliveries around town. La Barba, located downtown in Salt Lake, transitioned from a BBQ grill to a coffee roaster and offers barista classes, specialty roasted coffee, and even bottles of their cold brewed coffee to go.
A batch of Big Bad Baptist is aged in bourbon barrels for anywhere from 6-18 months. The coffee from each unique roaster gives every batch a one-off aroma and flavor which makes it fun to try all three! I was able to do just that at the Tap-less Tap Room located at Epic’s Salt Lake brewery and bottle shop. Unfortunately, Utah laws only allowed me to have 2 tasters in front of me at a time so I tasted Ibis and Blue Copper versions side by side, then finished Ibis and tasted La Barba with the second half of my Blue Copper. I was able to get a pretty good idea of the differences.
For the most part these varieties of Big Bad Baptist are very similar, but there are definitely some subtle distinctions. Ibis seems to have the darkest roast and strongest coffee essence. It also has a strong bourbon aroma and boozy flavor, and I detected some vanilla notes. I enjoyed it, but I’m curious to see how it ages and mellows in my cellar. The Blue Copper is probably the smoothest and most balanced of the three. There is a prominent chocolate aroma, but all the elements are there and nothing overpowers. It’s quite easy to drink! La Barba is also very smooth, but the bourbon has a little heat in the finish. The bourbon flavor isn’t overbearing, but that heat at the end burns in a very pleasant way. You know the bourbon is there!
Those living in Colorado will find Big Bad Baptist brewed with Novo coffee from Denver and a version using Cultivar coffee from Texas. If you fancy finishing your Thanksgiving dinner with a little of this tasty brew, head on down to the Epic Brewery or look for it in DABC liquor stores throughout Utah. Epic will also have their Imperial Pumpkin Porter available in growlers starting Wednesday at their bottle shop. Happy Holiday drinking, everyone!