Living in San Diego has its share of benefits, like the weather, incomparable Mexican food, and oh yeah…120 craft breweries throughout the county. While several of the local brewing operations are big enough that their beers are available in bars and bottle shops all over the country, it’s always worth a visit to tasting rooms to try some of the smaller batch stuff that helps fuel innovation in the industry.
When Green Flash Brewing Company launched its Genius Lab program in 2013, the idea was to give every employee from human resources to beertenders the opportunity to submit recipe ideas to be brewed on a five-barrel pilot system. And brew they did. Some of the popular beers to come from the program have included Saison Tart and NZ Single Hop, but the biggest success story has been Ristretto Cosmic Black Lager. Now repackaged as Cosmic Ristretto Baltic Porter with Espresso, this beer is the first graduate of the program to join the San Diego stalwart’s year-round lineup.
With a well-earned reputation for hoppy brews like West Coast IPA, Soul Style and Palate Wrecker, you might not expect a big black porter to fit into the Green Flash portfolio, but the quality of this offering is a testament to the range of the brewing staff. The term ristretto refers to a short shot of espresso that uses half of the amount of water with the same load of ground beans, and the beer delivers on its namesake’s concentrated flavor.
As soon as you crack open the bottle, a strong coffee aroma wafts up from the espresso extract that’s used during the brewing process. Cosmic Ristretto pours a luxurious black color with a finger of creamy head (or more if you pour too aggressively). Coffee is obviously the first thing you taste, but there are additional roasted notes from the chocolate malt and sweetness from Belgian candy sugar. An addition of lactose helps to fill out the body of the brew, and it also takes away some of the bitterness from the espresso. Clocking in at 8.2% ABV, it’s probably not a good idea to sub it in for your morning cup of joe, but you might be tempted as there’s nary a hint of booziness.
Expect to see Cosmic Ristretto throughout the Green Flash distribution network on draft and in 22-ounce bottles. If you happen to see it on a nitro tap at any establishment, just go ahead and buy two pints because someone in your group is going to want a taste, and you’ll never see it again.
Brewery: Green Flash Brewing Company
City: San Diego, Calif.
Style: Baltic porter with espresso
Availability: Year-round in all 50 states. 22 ounce bottles and draft
Don Ayres is a writer based in San Diego who spends his time keeping his wife from stealing his nitro beers. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @TheAlcoTourist.