Naturally-Caffeinated Craft Beer in the Post-Four Loko Era

Mikkeller Black Hole Stout, a coffee-enhanced craft beer [Photo: ramskov.org]

Written by Christian DeBenedetti for eater.com

Now that Four Loko — the 12% ABV malt beverage mixed with the chemically-added caffeine equivalent of three to six cups of strong coffees — has been effectively banned along with some similar drinks, people in the craft beer community are wringing their hands. What’s the worry? What could “The Blackout in a Can” have to do with artisanal ales made by hand and enjoyed with care? True, the FDA has ordered only four companies to remove the added caffeine or be pulled from shelves by mid-December. But thanks to the fist-pounding, nanny-state politicians like Charles Schumer, the worry is that the FDA or TTB (Federal Tax & Trade Bureau, formerly the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) might try to ban all alcoholic drinks containing caffeine, which would have potentially wide-reaching effects. See, in the craft beer world, experimentation rules and adding crazy — but entirely legal — ingredients to the mix is the norm.

Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster Garrett Oliver was particularly sanguine about the whole affair. “The thing that concerns me is that we might not be able to do the kind of stuff that we’ve done in the past,” said Oliver. “For example, with Stumptown Coffee roasters, we did a beer with them called Intensified Coffee Stout which used Finca el Injerto coffee. And of course many brewers make coffee stouts. We’ve had beers infused with cacao nibs as well, and all of these would be considered to be caffeinated. So, if we then became collateral damage for something like Four Loko, that would be more than spectacularly annoying.”

Craft Beers, Naturally-Caffeinated
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