It sounds like a match made in heaven — but the buzz is purely local.
Two of Savannah's most passionate beverage creators, Smith Mathews of Southbound Brewing Company and Philip Brown of PERC Coffee, joined forces in the last half of 2013 to develop a seasonal beer, and the anticipation has caused mass mouthwatering among beer lovers and coffeephiles.
The thirst-slaking result of their labors is a seasonal beer christened Moonlight Drive, a rich Imperial Stout infused with the smoky notes of PERC's Bali Blue Krishna roast.
It makes its debut at Tamp and Tap, an afternoon tasting festival taking place this Saturday, Jan. 11 at PERC's swanky new roasting facility inside the baronial brick compound of the Southern Pine Company.
Both Smith and Brown produce their respective small batch brews with careful attention to ingredients and process. Naturally, their collaboration required ample research and development.
"We had a couple of meetings over the summer to see how we could incorporate the science of beer with the science of coffee," says Brown, who — along with his staff of "friendly coffee geeks" — experimented with six different coffees before settling on the Indonesian-sourced beans.
"It took a couple of months to get the 'R and D' just right."
The first pilot batch of Moonlight Drive tasted like "chocolatey iced coffee," describes Southbound Brewing's marketing director Carly Wiggins, and the final product is expected to be a bit lighter with less of a java kick.
"There's still going to be that coffee influence, but Smith wanted to get those other notes in there that come from the malts," explains Wiggins, adding that the best pilot batch yielded "a very dark, medium-bodied beer with chocolate and roasty flavors."
Those with their glasses at the ready this Saturday will be the first to sample Moonlight Drive right out of the gate. The 8.5 percent alcohol stout is already brewed, but the last steps of this crafted concoction have yet to be implemented.
A true purist who earned his beer chops at Atlanta's Sweetwater Brewery, brewmaster Mathews is waiting to add the 150 pounds of ground coffee beans (wrapped in cheesecloth to prevent any sediment) until the optimum moment.
"We actually add the coffee about 18 hours before we're ready to keg it," says Wiggins.
"That way there's no bitterness, just a really smooth coffee flavor."
Like Southbound's other offerings, Moonlight Drive reflects a wink to rock n' roll — the Iron Lion Pale Ale pays homage to Bob Marley, and the Bad Bad Cascade Brown salutes Jim Croce.
In this case, the Doors' offbeat blues tune provided inspiration (you just might hear Jim Morrison crooning as you sip: Let's climb through the tide/Surrender to the waiting worlds /That lap against our side...)
"We thought 'Moonlight Drive' was perfect for this brew, the drive from the caffeine, the dark from the moonlight..." says Wiggins.
Tamp and Tap attendees can take it for a spin along with three other Southbound labels, including Hoplin' IPA, Scattered Sun Belgian Wit and the aforementioned Bad Bad Cascade Brown. Tastings are doled out in 5-ounce samples, though a souvenir pint glass is included in the price of admission.
Wiggins calls the event "a celebration of local collaboration" that highlights not only the Southbound/PERC partnership but other familiar businesses as well. The Jepson Café and Angel's BBQ are creating special for-purchase edibles made from Southbound beers and PERC coffee. Musical entertainment will be provided by the band that pairs well with anything, the Accomplices.
The event also presents opportunity to tour the cavernous warehouses of reclaimed materials and sustainable design at Southern Pine Co. and PERC's new operations, now open to the public for coffee tastings called "cuppings."
Speaking of tours and tastings, Southbound Brewing Co. will finally be able to offer those up at their Lathrop Ave. space in the next few weeks. Wiggins reports that the city approved the necessary ordinance in September, the building permit has been issued and the ADA-sanctioned wheelchair ramp and restroom are just about finished.
The brewery will premiere its first public event on Feb. 1, the "Raise a Glass to Raise the Roof" fundraising even for Second Harvest.
In the meantime, she and brewmaster Mathews are grateful that PERC and Brown offered to host this time around. As for their celestial collaboration, Brown fully intends to offer up his beans to Southbound for more seasonal delights in the future.
"As far as I'm concerned, we'd like to do it yearly."