On Death Blows, Nachos and Coffee Collabos with Cody Allmin of Twin Sails Brewing

As part of our pre-event coverage of this year’s Hopwired Festival (February 23rd at the Croatian Cultural Centre), we met up with Cody Allmin, cofounder of Twin Sails Brewing – this year’s welcome beer brewery – to get a sneak peek of what they’ll be serving up. Read on for a behind-the-scenes briefing on the collaboration process.

How did you get involved with Hopwired? We didn’t participate last year but heard amazing things about it from friends and fellow industry colleagues so we were keen this year to take part. Plus, who doesn’t love coffee and beer, am I right?

What is your personal coffee drink of choice? Call me old fashioned but I’ll take a straight up drip black any day. If I’m feeling sassy, I’ll seek out a good affogato.

Where is your go-to for your coffee fix? I usually make it at home or at work but if I’m going somewhere, the coffee at Revolver is great.

Tell me about Twin Sails’ contribution to this year’s festival. We teamed up with an amazing coffee supplier, Prototype Coffee, to do a couple of beers for the event. One of the beers that we’ll be pouring is an Imperial Oatmeal Stout conditioned on cracked coffee beans. The second one is an event exclusive version of our Single Barrel Death Blow, a Bourbon Barrel Aged Barley Wine that we conditioned on coffee beans. We only made 50L of this batch of Death Blow and beer fans will be getting to try this one as the welcome beer at the Good Night Out booth.

How many “cooks” were involved in conceiving and brewing the final beer? Matt from Prototype came down with a few of his roast options and did a cupping with our brew team. They tried the different roasts with similar styles of beer to the ones we were collabing on and picked out the roasts that worked best. The bulk of the work for collaborations happens well before the brew day, during the planning stages.

What are the most important elements of a successful collaboration, in your opinion? By far, the people that you’re collaborating with. When we’re deciding on who to collaborate with we’re always looking for partners who are as creative and passionate about their products as we are.

What was the biggest challenge of the collaboration process? Honestly, our collaborations don’t really come with any challenges. They’re a great outlet for us to brew something we normally wouldn’t, or go even crazier with an ingredient than we normally would.

How does incorporating/infusing coffee into beer effect the brewing process? Breweries will use different techniques for adding coffee flavour to beer, but our preferred method is to cold condition the beer on cracked coffee beans just before packaging, similar to the cold brew process. We find this adds great coffee flavour without diluting the beer or absorbing too much bitterness from the coffee.

What was the inspiration behind the “Death Blow” – both the beer and the name? The name, like quite a few other beers in our repertoire, is a Seinfeld reference from the episode “The Little Kicks” where Jerry has to bootleg a fictional movie called Death Blow. We’ve always loved the name for a beer and thought it was fitting for a big barrel aged barley wine.

The inspiration behind the beer was simple: we wanted to make a really good barley wine. We definitely leaned more towards the English style barley wine as opposed to the more bitter American style because we intended to barrel age it.

What are the ideal pairings for your beer collaborations? For the Counting Sheep Oatmeal Coffee Stout I’d suggest anything that would go with coffee. For the Death Blow Barley Wine with Coffee, a delicate french scone with raisins would pair perfectly….or nachos. Nachos are great with all beers.

How much, if any, caffeine is in the beer? Will drinkers get a buzz double-whammy while they sip on the “Death Blow”, for instance? Oh ya, they’ll definitely get a coffee buzz from these beers. Maybe not as much as taking a couple shots of espresso, but they’ll feel it. I like to call these “shower beers” for a reason – they’re great for waking you up!

Why, in general, are coffee and beer such a good match, in your opinion? A lot of it has to do with them both sharing a similar process in preparing the base ingredient by roasting.

Why are some styles of beer better suited for a coffee infusion than others? Again, we go back to that preparation of the ingredients. Stouts, for example, use a lot of dark roasted malts which share a very similar roast profile to that of a coffee bean. Not to say that coffee doesn’t belong in something like an IPA or a Wild Ale. If you know how to work with the ingredients well, you can make anything taste great!

For those who don’t like coffee, why should they give the Death Blow a chance? Because it’s awesome! The base beers has a ton of big caramel and raisin flavours, combine that with the coffee notes, bourbon back bone and the warming heat of the 11.8% abv and you’ve got yourself a dessert in a glass.

Do you have any plans for future coffee and beer collaborations? Which Vancouver (or BC) coffee roaster are you most excited about, right now? Definitely; we love working with local roasters. This will be the third roaster we’ve collaborated with and I’m sure it won’t be the last. We’re definitely most excited for Prototype’s new space to open up. The room looks amazing and he’s going to be doing some pretty cool stuff there that we haven’t seen anybody else in town doing.

Lastly, do you have any useful insider tips for how to make it through an all-day beer-drinking event such as Hopwired? What’s the best strategy to get the best buzz out of the festival? The only tip I can give is the same tip I give to anybody going out drinking: Water! Drink lots of it!

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