Three of my favourite things on the planet (beer, coffee, and tea) are brewed. My experience combining those things has been mixed. Mixing tea and coffee in an attempt to make “toffee” was, in retrospect, ill-advised. And there have been some ups and downs combining tea with beer: it’s a fairly common adjunct in Japan, where the results were inconsistent to say the least.
The most consistently good combination has always been mixing dark, roasty coffee with dark, roasty beers. I already know to expect good things from Evil Twin’s collabs in this sphere, and Hackney makes Kapow! which is a decent pint. There’s a lot of promise in this can. A lot of alcohol too: at 14%, this is stronger than many wines.
The can design is the first thing that draws me in: a cartoon redraw of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, not unlike if Bojack Horseman had decided to set an episode there. My favourite Nighthawks fact (my only Nighthawks fact, in fact) is probably apocryphal, but it’s still fun:
June 7th, 1942: Edward Hopper completes his best-known painting, the seminal Nighthawks. When asked by a Chicago Tribune reporter about the philosophical meaning behind the diner having no clearly visible exits Hopper responded, “Shit. Fuck. I did it again. Goddamnit. Fuck. Not again. I did it again. Shit.“ and slammed his hat on his leg.Source: baseless rumour
So yes, Nightowls looks like an imperial stout. The head fizzes and froths at first, but after a few moments it’s dissipated into a fine, caramel lace that replenishes consistently with gas from the beer.
The aroma is dark, bitter coffee. This is like huffing on the moka pot after pouring my morning brew. Continuing the morning theme, there’s some rich, sweet hazelnut in there too, like toast with nutella.
I take my first sip. Jesus, this is thick.
No surprises as we start with coffee. Beyond that initial shock the bubbles start popping on the tongue; they’re present, but softer than they look just because this beer is milkshake thick. As it warms up, a brandy alcoholic edge shows itself; kirsch, raspberry, vanilla. More of a surprise is that it’s not overly sweet. At 14%, there’s little room left for residual sugar.
After I swallow my mouth is already watering for more. Umami marmite finish.
This is a big can, not just for being 440ml but also by being strong by wine standards. That thickness and umami flavour makes Nightowls filling and satisfying, without cloying, sugary sweetness. It’s not perfect: it’s over-reliant on the coffee flavours, neither complex nor simple enough to sit quite right at 14%. But as a fun way to round off an evening, this is a damn good beer. 4/5