by Heather Larson / Photo © Erica Bolvin
Champagne and caviar. Chocolate and wine. Coffee and beer. Wait – caffeine and hops don’t go together. Yet Hop Coffee, inside the Harmon Tap Room in downtown Tacoma, recently introduced this pairing and the duo have been inseparable bestsellers ever since. This small neighborhood espresso stand sells coffee drinks and hot chocolate featuring Harmon Ale infused syrups and flavors. They call what they do “the best of both brews.”
When the owners of Harmon Brewing Company asked their pastry chef, Melina Eshinski, to create flavored coffee drinks using their beers and ales, she responded positively, like any good foodie faced with a gastronomic challenge would.
“The first thing I did was Google ‘beer and coffee,’” says Eshinski, a graduate of South Seattle Community College’s pastry arts program. “I knew I was in trouble when I didn’t get any hits. To me that meant the idea was either very unique or terrible.”
As with any new endeavor, Eshinski’s first few trials produced questionable results. The syrups tasted very bitter, she says, because when you boil beer down you wind up with a relatively bitter flavor. Add that to the bitterness of coffee and the drink was a bit off key. But she kept at it and within two months created a couple of tasty drinks where the flavors worked together in harmony.
“A key ingredient was the coffee and we didn’t have that right blend until we asked Bluebeard Coffee Roasters (on 6th Avenue in Tacoma) to develop a special roast just for Hop Coffee,” says Eshinski.
Turning to flavors that pair well with both coffee and beer, Eshinski selected orange, chocolate, caramel and vanilla. To Harmon’s Point Defiance IPA she added caramel. When you order an IPA caramel latte, you’ll taste smooth, silky citrus notes. The beer in a Puget Sound Porter Mocha cuts some of the chocolate’s sweetness which might be why this is the best selling of the beer-infused coffees.
A fairly new rendition, Blonde Orange Latte, couples Mt. Takhoma Blonde with orange and tastes reminiscent of a creamsicle. This was my personal favorite. Look for Pinnacle Peak Pale Ale paired with vanilla beans coming soon.
To accompany your coffee, try a Hop Tart, a play on those familiar pastries you pop into the toaster. Only a Hop Tart is three times the size and comes filled with peanut butter and jelly, or strawberry and lemon-mascarpone, and sells for only $1. Eshinski makes all of the pastries and desserts for Harmon’s family of restaurants, and she’s always trying new ones. Last I heard she was working on a peach cobbler cheesecake, but that’s another story.
Hop Coffee is located at 204 Saint Helens Ave., inside the Harmon Tap Room. To find their latest creations, go online at hopcoffee.net. To learn more about visiting the historic city of Tacoma, go to traveltacoma.com.