Combining beer and coffee isn’t exactly a unique idea. There are plenty of dark stouts that were made with coffee beans and have a bold taste of morning joe.
The new Whidbey Coffee Pale Ale is different, as the name suggests. It’s light and mild comparatively.
It’s also “shockingly good,” according to Dan Ollis, founder of Whidbey Coffee.
Ollie said Josh Riggs, a brewer at Pyramid Brewing in Seattle, suggested the idea of working together to create a lighter ale that is brewed with Whidbey Coffee’s “Founder’s Blend.” Ollis said he was intrigued and signed on; he’s more than pleased with the results.
“Amazingly, you can drink more than a sip,” joked Ollis, who’s not a fan of dark, strong-flavored beer.
Ollie said the brewer described Whidbey Coffee Pale Ale as a spring or fall beer. So far he’s heard only positive reviews from those who have partaken.
Whidbey Coffee Pale Ale is currently only available on tap at Pyramid Alehouse in Seattle, which is across from Safeco Field. Ollis, however, said he’s talking to distributors.
Ollis bought a keg of the ale and donated it for the beer garden at Oak Harbor’s Fourth of July celebration. It went quickly, Ollis said.
He bought another keg for the Whidbey Island Fair, which just ended Sunday. It was the first chance for Whidbey residents to taste the ale. All the proceeds will go to the Whidbey Island Fair Association. At least one patron appreciated the shot of caffeine in the ale.
Fairgoer Deborah Abbott said she liked the flavor and ordered a glass after having a small taste.
“It’s like an energy beer,” she said. “I feel energized from that little sip.”
Bringing the ale to the fair is especially fitting since Ollis and a business partner, Shawn Ogle, first went into business in 1990 selling fajitas and coffee at the Island County and Evergreen State fairs.
In 1990, Ollis and Ogle set up an espresso cart in front of Payless in Freeland and started selling coffee drinks. The first Whidbey Coffee drive-through business opened in Freeland in November of 1991.
The business has come a long way since then. Whidbey Coffee has a dozen retail locations in the Puget Sound region and a sister company, Victrola Coffee, in Seattle.
And now it has a signature beverage of a different kind.