Beer of the week: Early Bird Cold Brew Stout

Coronado Brewing Company’s milk stout is made with coffee and cinnamon


Beer Name: Early Bird Cold Brew Stout
Brewery: Coronado Brewing Company
Style: Milk stout
ABV: 5.5%

As one of San Diego’s earliest breweries, Coronado Brewing Company is a veteran of the local craft beer scene. At this year’s Great American Beer Festival (GABF), Coronado won a silver medal for its Freebooter Barleywine and a bronze medal for the Weekend Vibes IPA.

PACIFIC spoke with Mark Theisen, Head Brewer at Coronado Brewing Company to find out more about the Early Bird stout, made this year with Bird Rock Coffee Roaster’s Cafe del Sol.

What’s the story with name Early Bird?
MARK: We first brewed Early Bird Cold Brew Stout in late fall 2017. We knew we wanted to release a seasonal beer for the fall/winter months, so we landed on a milk stout. We thought it would be fun to brew a stout with coffee and lactose, and keep the alcohol on the lower end to make this a very drinkable stout, kind of like our take on a cold brew coffee. That’s really where the inspiration for the name came from—we thought about the saying the Early Bird gets the worm, and with this being a coffee milk stout, the name kind of stuck.

For newbies to craft beer, what exactly is a milk stout versus a regular one?
MARK: The main difference between a milk stout and other types of stouts is the lactose, or milk sugar, that we add to the beer. The lactose gives the beer a slight sweetness and can often add to a creamier mouthfeel. Milk stouts were a really popular style in England in the 1900s. We like using a milk stout base and then adding coffee for an espresso-like flavor profile without the harsh bitterness.

What’s in it?
MARK: We start with the milk stout base, then we add coffee from our friends at Bird Rock Roasters (their production roastery is right around the corner from us!). For this year’s version, we changed things up a bit by adding in honey and cinnamon for a fun play on Bird Rock’s Gold Digger latte. The honey and cinnamon add a nice complexity to the beer without being overly sweet or too spiced.

What should someone trying the Early Bird for the first time expect?
MARK: I would suggest pouring this beer from the can into a glass. The beer pours a dark, opaque brown with a thick creamy tan head. The aroma is complex with lots of coffee/espresso, a hint of sweetness and very light cinnamon. When you taste the beer, you’ll probably be surprised at how smooth and easy-drinking this is — most people think stouts will be thick and heavy, and Early Bird is much lighter than you might expect. As you drink the beer and let it warm up a little bit, you’ll get the layers of coffee and roast, then the sweetness from the lactose and honey, with a touch of cinnamon. It’s really balanced and I love how the cinnamon is very subtle.

Perfect pairing?
MARK: One of the guys at work just made chili using Early Bird, and it paired really well! Try adding a can to your next chili recipe, or pairing it with a hearty steak or beef stew. If you’re looking for a sweet pairing, it would be great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or with any chocolate dessert.

This beer gal’s take:
Back for a triumphant return, this delicious beer is perfect for moving into cooler weather, especially with this year’s addition of cinnamon. Serve this drinkable, breakfast-worthy stout at fall brunches with friends, and serve with warm dishes like cinnamon rolls, French toast and coffee cake.

Where can I get it and how long?
MARK: Early Bird is available in canned 16 oz. four-packs and on draft. This is a seasonal release, so keep an eye on it now through the end of the year. We have it available on draft and to-go at all three locations, and you can use our BrewFinder to type in your zip code to find it near you!

Extra Juicy Tidbit?
MARK: We are really stoked to be working with the crew over at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. This year’s Early Bird uses Bird Rock’s Cafe Del Sol coffee blend, and as a fun promo, we’re selling limited edition Early Bird branded Cafe Del Sol whole bean coffee bags at our locations. Follow-us on Instagram for the latest details, but we should have bundles of Early Bird beer and Cafe Del Sol coffee available at our locations next week.

Coronado Brewing Company has a brewpub in Coronado, a restaurant in Imperial Beach and a tasting room in Morena/Bay Park.