First, it was coffee with wine. Now Rick Molinari’s taking things a drink further.
Earlier this year, hoping to find somewhere to make a cold brew coffee, Molinari went to Bend, Oregon to see if Jimmy Seifrit, brewmaster at 10 Barrel Brewing, could help him out. He came away with something else entirely.
“It ended up turning out to be we’re going to be doing a stout with my wine coffee,” Molinari said recently.
Introduced by a mutual friend, Molinari and Seifrit have since ironed out a recipe to effectively close a new wine to coffee to beer circle.
Their in-the-works wine-coffee-beer, the first boozy triumvirate of its kind, will have its release through 10 Barrel late next year, helping to add a new dimension to Molinari’s popular caffeinated concoction, the Molinari Private Reserve.
The alcohol-free wine-coffee is made by rehydrating coffee beans in a red Napa wine for a rich taste churning with dark fruit flavors. So far, the coffee has earned shoutouts from the likes of Time and Food & Wine magazines, as well as a recent TV spot in France.
The wine-infused coffee is available at various Napa wineries and in Molinari’s downtown Napa coffee shop, Molinari Caffe on Brown Street. With plans to move to Oregon next year and the Private Reserve gaining momentum, Molinari says he’s shifting focus from his Napa coffee hub to the coffee itself.
“It’s gotten even bigger and I just need to put more time and effort into it,” he said.
Amid all the growth, another layer of libation has been a welcome, if surprise addition to Molinari's plans, while on the brewery side, the appeal to Seifrit of blending mediums is equal parts creative outlet and customer outreach.
“The idea of being able to get a wine barrel-aged coffee-flavored stout just by infusing his wine-coffee -- which I think is actually a more distinct wine flavor than I would get out of a wine barrel -- was super intriguing to us,” Seifrit said.
“For me, I love the idea of having a customer being excited, like, ‘How’d you make this wine-aged beer so fast?’”
From there, a discourse on the beer’s coffee side would naturally spin off into a spot for Molinari’s business.
“Jimmy and I are kind of on the same page. We like doing new things,” Molinari said, pointing to some of Seifrit’s offbeat yet widely popular brews. “I don’t know if anybody would have thought of doing an apricot sour or a cucumber sour.”
That inventiveness, on top of earning 10 Barrel a wide following, a 2014 buyout by Anheuser-Busch InBev and a steadily growing number of locations across the West, should also keep the coffee-wine-beer quaffable rather than becoming a drink too far.
The brewing begins with cold-steeping the wine-infused beans for 24 hours. This helps cut out the oil in the coffee, Seifrit says, which can kill the foamy head of a beer. Once cold-steeped and oil-free, the liquid coffee is combined with an already prepared oatmeal stout.
The coffee and stout are married in the brewery’s finished beer tank, its last stop before packaging.
But how does a beer made with coffee made with wine taste?
“It’s hard to explain,” Molinari says of the elusive flavor profile. “We’re still developing. But the taste is going to change per batch.”
Much will depend on how much of the wine flavor gets soaked into his coffee at the start.
“We’re probably going to use the decaf, because my decaf wine coffee actually has more of the flavor of the wine in it and the fruitfulness of it,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to explain because it’s not anything like a coffee stout. It is, but it isn’t. It’s just going to have a little bit more of a fruitier taste to it, but it’s still going to be clean.”
Tannins will come into play from both the coffee and the wine, Seifrit said. “And what we do with that then is pair it up with an oatmeal stout that’s got a really big creamy underlying tone to it.”
“So you kind of have basically this little bit of smoothness plays off that tannic and together they work to have this wonderfully, kind of like dexterous beer, but it has a great snap from that wine bite at the end of it.”
Brewing will begin with small batches. Working with three-and-a-half-barrel and 10-barrel systems, Seifrit was able to run through the beer on the smallest scale first and is now ramping up to the 10-barrel system to move the beer into the “brewpub series” -- a set of beers made at 20 to 80 barrels and sold to accounts that do well for the brewery.
“At least beer industry-wise, the customer that’s out there wants everything that’s new and that nobody else can get," he said. "So these beers really drive people toward these accounts, but also toward 10 Barrel."
For now, a release date around fall or winter of this year is most likely. “I can’t put out a coffee stout in the middle of the summer,” Seifrit said, a time when “people just aren’t drinking those styles of beers.”
A name is still forthcoming, but after 25 years as a brewmaster, Seifrit says he’s leaving the naming up to the marketing department. “One is, pretty much every great name is taken at this point. And two is, it actually just hurts my head trying to do it anymore.”
Test markets might include areas like Seattle and Portland with pulsing beer and coffee scenes. Add to that Napa, as Molinari says he’ll also offer the beer at his coffee shop.
“Napa’s turning into that,” Molinari said. “Napa’s turning into a beer place … If it goes well I might want to work with other people down here, if they want to.”