There’s a newly married couple in town – malted barley and coffee beans – and the proud parents are Eden Prairie businesses: Fat Pants Brewing and Smith Coffee & Café.
Fat Pants and Smith Coffee have collaborated to create a new, coffee-flavored stout beer called Smithereen, a playful use of the Smith name, which comes from the 1877 Smith-Douglas-More house that is home to Smith Coffee & Café.
It’s the coming together of two locally-owned businesses and two longtime Eden Prairie families. Don Anderson of the Anderson family that owns and operates Fat Pants has lived in Eden Prairie since 1978, and Ann Schuster of the Schuster-family-owned Smith Coffee has been here since ’84.
But, they didn’t know each other well until Fat Pants reached out to Ann and her son, Alex, earlier this fall about working together on a coffee-flavored beer.
The initial effort was the “engagement”: Fat Pants was looking to infuse its existing Cream-Sota beer with coffee and got a bit of help from Smith Coffee.
By comparison, the “wedding” was the recent creation of Smithereen, with the Schusters providing hands-on help on the recipe for and brewing of a stout joined with cold brew from the coffee bean known as Smith 1877 – all to create a beer that tastes very much like black coffee, hearty and strong.
“If you like black coffee; well, it tastes exactly like black coffee,” says Don.
Currently, only a small batch of Smithereen exists, but it’s on tap at newly expanded Fat Pants Brewing and the recently renovated Smith Coffee & Café.
The two businesses have more in common than their many years in Eden Prairie. For both, brewing – whether it’s coffee or beer – is a mix of science and art to create flavors that customers like. One starts with malted barley; the other starts with raw coffee beans.
And perhaps that’s why the two families meshed so well.
“I would like the world to know how great they were to work with,” Ann Schuster says of the Fat Pants crew. “They made it so easy for us.”
“It’s been a lot of fun,” added Don.
Much of the brewing of the Smithereens small batch – one barrel, or 31 gallons – took place with the two families side by side. Don says a computer program helps calculate such things as the bitterness, alcohol content, and hop content. But the art is in finalizing the taste profile: Does it have a citrus or floral flavor? Is it clear or hazy?
As it happened, very little beer was wasted in getting to the final product. “We’ve been doing this a while,” Don explains. It remains to be seen whether the recipe will be adjusted if a large batch of Smithereen is brewed.
Smithereen also seems destined to stay a tap beer, at least for a while. Because it is a nitrogenized beer, a reference to the type of gas used in the carbonation process, it’s difficult to put Smithereen in a can or bottle and preserve its smooth taste. “It does not travel well,” says Don.
Instead, the future of Smithereen, beyond large-batch production at Fat Pants, might be a mock liqueur that tastes a little like the Kahlua coffee liqueur made in Mexico. In other words, suitable for a “mocktail” – a cocktail without the liquor.
In the end, it’s not just about the sales. “We try not to take ourselves too seriously,” Don says. “Most of what we do is fun.”
At Smith Coffee & Café, Smithereen arrives in concert with the recent renovation of the coffee shop, which includes an expanded kitchen with new pizza ovens that may help Smith bring back the pizza-and-beer events it experimented with in earlier times.
And, perhaps, another partnership with Fat Pants.
Says Ann, “I can see us collaborating with them again, in some way.”