J Wakefield

Fundamentals #47 — Buxton X J. Wakefield Coral Castle Coconut Infused Imperial Stout

I haven’t forgiven Florida’s J. Wakefield Brewery for its use of what I feel was sexist branding on many of its labels, especially when its Gourdita pumpkin beer still does. So why am I reviewing Coral Castle, a coconut-infused imperial stout brewed in collaboration with Buxton, you may ask?

Perhaps it’s because I believe in second chances and the ability to move one’s position once presented with new information. And the brewery did apologise. Also, perhaps, there’s significance in that this US brewery has forged several deep friendships here in the UK, expressed through collabs with the likes of Cloudwater and Mondo, as well as Buxton. There’s a great deal you can learn through collaboration, and also if you’re not acting right, your friends should be the first to set you straight.

J. Wakefield isn’t off the hook for me yet, but Buxton deserves all the plaudits for its beers, and this one is outstanding. The condition I find myself in when drinking this beer, however, is a long way from that.

I was just in Denver for this year’s Craft Brewers Conference. While the days at CBC are filled with seminars and panel talks and looking at the canning lines whirring away in demo mode on the trade show floor, the evenings, well, they’re about studying the host city’s beer culture. It may not surprise to hear you that Denver has this in spades. And so I wake up the morning after the night before a little worse for wear, and the fear sets in. Have I missed my deadline? Is it today? Oh shit.

Thankfully I had the beer with me in my suitcase, with the intention of drinking it at a sensible time. But time, I thought, was out. So I did what any self-respecting beer writer would do, and poured the can out into one of the plastic cups in my motel room, and began making my tasting notes.

I wouldn’t normally recommend drinking an 8.5% ABV stout at 10.30am on a hangover. But with my palate morning-sharp (ish) and my other senses dulled by the previous night’s indulgence, this beer proved to be the perfect hair of the dog. It was rich, roasty and delicious, the ever-so-carefully adorned coconut adding just the right dose of playful flavour, almost vanilla and bourbon barrel-like in character.

After tasting, I grabbed my laptop to start typing up my notes, sending Hop Burns & Black’s Jen a panicked message that the copy would be with her shortly. “It doesn’t need to be in until Monday, Matt,” came the reply. Ah.

The lessons to take away from this experience are: to always write your deadlines down, that delicious beers do indeed taste delicious at any time of the day, coconut works beautifully in imperial stouts, and to never let those guilty of potentially marginalising behaviour off the hook, ever. Happy beer-drinking, everyone.

Matthew Curtis is a freelance writer, photographer and author of our award-winning Fundamentals column. He's written for publications including BEER, Ferment, Good Beer Hunting and Original Gravity. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis. We have a mere handful of Coral Castle cans left, pick one up while you can…