Breweries find that coffee is their second favorite beverage

  • Joshua M. Bernstein
  • ©2017 The New York Times
Dec 05, 2017
T.J. KIRKPATRICK
Sean Arroyo, the chief executive of Heritage Brewing and Veritas Coffee, dumps coffee beans into a storage container at the company’s operations in Manassas, Va., Oct. 13, 2017. Beer makers around the country are taking on another brew - roasting coffee, opening cafes and working both ends of the day. (T.J. Kirkpatrick/The New York Times)

Most Tuesdays, Josh Dill follows a routine. He strolls down South Main Street in Yardley, Pennsylvania, where he lives, for coffee at Pretty Bird Coffee Roasters, then commutes by train to his office near Trenton, New Jersey.

After returning home, Dill has dinner and beer at Vault Brewing, in an old bank across from Pretty Bird. “They get me coming and going,” said Dill, 36, the owner of RnD Consulting, an information systems service provider. “They’ve got me locked in.”

Vault and Pretty Bird have the same owners. And it’s not the only brewer deciding to add coffee roasters and cafes under the same umbrella — offering uppers as well as downers. Last summer, Dark Horse Brewing in Marshall, a city in southern Michigan, opened Dark Street Roasting Co. and Coffee House.

Hotbox Roasters, which cans beans and nitro cold brew and is owned by Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont, Colorado, opened a Denver coffee shop (which also serves beer) in January. In May, the Social Tap restaurant opened in Oak Park, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, serving lattes and more beginning at 7 a.m. using beans roasted by its owner, Two Brothers Artisan Brewing.

“The idea of owning both sides of the clock was always attractive to us,” said James Cain, an owner of Vault and Pretty Bird, which opened in June in a cheerful shop decorated with verdant plants and pink neon.

Many brewers see a bridge connecting their day and night clientele. “The market is a natural crossover,” said Sean Arroyo, the chief executive of Heritage Brewing and Veritas Coffee. “Most beer consumers are coffee consumers.” The brewery was founded in 2013 in Manassas, Virginia, about 30 miles southwest of Washington, by military veterans. From its inception, it has sought to make coffee a company pillar. “We brew early in the morning, and we needed that fix,” Arroyo said, laughing.

Heritage bought a small roaster, installed it in the brewery and started experimenting with cold brew extracted under nitrogen pressure. (Arroyo says the process creates greater consistency.) Feedback from taproom customers helped Heritage fine-tune its technique before starting Veritas in 2015.

Today, you’ll find the coffee in cans and on tap at Heritage Brewing Co. Market Common Brewpub & Roastery in Arlington, Virginia. It opened in April, merging a coffee shop with a restaurant, beer store and brewery. “Throughout the day, we transition into meeting our consumers’ needs,” Arroyo said, adding that Heritage aims to open a coffee shop next spring in Chantilly, Virginia, about 25 miles west of Washington.

Installing a coffee shop lets breweries maximize square footage at an early hour, when taprooms would typically sit silent. “The cafe activates our space at a time when we wouldn’t otherwise be open,” said Jacob McKean, founder of Modern Times Beer, which began brewing and roasting coffee in 2013.

A year ago, Modern Times set aside part of its taproom in the Point Loma section of San Diego for a cafe. It opens at 8 a.m. and sells flights of cold-brew and pour-over coffee made with beans it ages in rum barrels.

The approach borrows serving styles and flavoring techniques from the beer world, enticing customers with a different kind of buzz. “People that come into our tasting room for beer are really excited about trying our coffee once they’re here,” said McKean, who noted that the brewery has extended its cafe hours to 5 p.m. It’s “definitely awesome” to have nonalcoholic options in the tasting room, said McKean, who will offer coffee at forthcoming outposts in Los Angeles; Encinitas, California; and Portland, Oregon.

The company also uses its roaster to create blends that are infused into beers, like the smooth and chocolaty Black House stout. (Purpose Brewing & Cellars, which opened in Fort Collins, Colorado, in August, also custom-roasts coffee for its beer.) Modern Times sells its beans at its taprooms and online, and cans its cold-brew coffee. This maximizes the brewery’s packaging expertise and canning machinery.

“It’s not running 24 hours a day,” McKean said. “By canning coffee, we’re finding another way to put that equipment into use when otherwise it would’ve been idle.”

Whether coffee or beer, all Modern Times products share similar logos and labeling. In Pennsylvania, Vault and Pretty Bird stay distinct brands, even though the production brewery and roastery share the same building, and coffee regularly finds its way into beers like the Breakfast Stout, also starring oats and maple syrup. The aim is to let both companies stand on their own.

“The intention isn’t to say, ‘Vault does beer really well, so they should be able to do coffee really well,’” said Cain, the Vault owner. “To us, Pretty Bird means good coffee and Vault means good beer.”

Not all breweries separate their beer and coffee brands. Last August in Flint, Michigan, the hard-hit auto manufacturing city, Tenacity Brewing reconfigured part of its home, in a former firehouse, into Heyday Coffee Roasters. It roasts the beans used in its espresso drinks and draft cold brew, which customers can enjoy in the brewery’s quiet, couch-filled den.

Heyday has attracted early risers like Crystal Pepperdine, the founder and executive director of Flint Handmade, a nonprofit arts organization. On the first Friday of every month, she runs Craft, Coffee and Donuts, which draws craft enthusiasts to the taproom. “It’s just like getting together with a friend over breakfast at someone’s house,” Pepperdine said.

Community sits at the heart of coffee and beer. “You sit around in the morning with a cup of coffee, then you sit around at night with a glass of beer,” Arroyo said. “To merge those two cultures just seems natural.”