Local brewer Kyle Jefferson is buying shredded coconut in 50-pound batches these days. But that barely seems enough to quench the thirsts of patrons who share his appreciation of the tropical stone fruit’s nostalgic nature.
Coconut-infused beers are certainly nothing new. Several Tucson breweries have embraced coconut’s potential as an additive. But to Jefferson, it’s personal. The very aroma of a coconut connects him with childhood memories that he says are relevant today in his taproom.
“I loved Mounds bars as a kid, and when I got a candy bar once a month, that’s what I would pick,” said Jefferson, co-owner of Pueblo Vida Brewing Company, 115 E. Broadway Blvd. “The coconut and its aromas are tied to good memories for me, unlike those of green beans and other things, and that’s why we love working with them in our many infusions.”
I guess we should all pause and take comfort in the fact that a green bean gose will never be brewed at Pueblo Vida.
Jefferson features a new beer every Tuesday that’s infused with one or more of his favorite flavors. Coconut makes frequent appearances, and those beers are always top sellers. Three weeks ago, his coconut-infused Dreamsicle, an IPA with fresh oranges and vanilla beans, disappeared just 90 minutes after it was tapped.
He also did a coconut infusion recently with his popular Rice Cream, what he calls his “culinary IPA” that’s brewed with jasmine rice. Another recent infusion brought coconut and pineapple together for a classic combination that transports your taste buds to the tropics.
Jefferson’s most recent Tuesday infusion called on coconuts as well, albeit in a more toasty and roasted expression. The Order Up is a version of one of his flagship beers called the Breakfast Stout, which showcases a berry-forward Ethiopian coffee from Tucson’s Presta Coffee Roasters along with milk sugar and toasted oats.
“Bringing coconut into our Breakfast Stout is like having a Mounds bar with a cup of coffee,” he said.
Over the next week or two, Jefferson expects to infuse one of his hop-heavy double IPAs with coconut and pomegranate. He suggested that pomegranate by itself could thin out a beer, but the addition of coconut should give it more depth. Stay tuned.
One of the myths that Jefferson wants to debunk with these infusions is that coconuts are too sweet and not the best companions for craft brews. He’s quick to point out that while they may have “a perceived sweetness” from memories of tropical desserts and drinks that likely included other sweetening agents, coconuts actually represent a “fattiness and fullness that builds body in a way that lets the other flavors in the beer shine.”
I tasted my first coconut beer four years ago at the Maui Brewing Company when I was interviewing the owner about his Coconut Porter. I was an immediate convert, though I’ll readily confess that the brewery’s proximity to the beach, with its stunning views of the island shoreline, helped earn my loyalty.
Pueblo Vida Brewing Company promises the same island inspiration whenever they have coconuts on hand. And while a beach is nowhere in sight, the brewery isn’t terribly far from the banks of the Santa Cruz River in which water recently flowed for the first time in 70 years.
Use a little imagination, and it’s aloha time in Tucson!
Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at email@example.com. Russell is also the publisher of OnTheMenuLive.com, a regular contributor to “Tales of the Keg” on ESPN Tucson, KFFN 1490 AM & 104.9 FM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.