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Opinion: Starbucks’ beer-flavored coffee a smart move

Michele Theodore holds a Dark Barrel Latte from Starbucks on Sept. 23. Credit: Michele Theodore / Managing editor for content

Michele Theodore holds a Dark Barrel Latte from Starbucks on Sept. 23.
Credit: Michele Theodore / Managing editor for content

I fell in love at a coffee shop.

At first, it seemed like any other coffee cup. My name was proudly scrawled on the tall, white exterior and the latte was steaming softly.

I picked it up and hustled out the door so I could escape the chaos of the counter, and that’s when it happened.

I fell head over heels for a brown liquid. 

Actually, come to think of it, it’s not the first time I’ve fallen in love with a drink, and maybe that’s why this new beverage was such a perfect match.

I always tell my friends that I have two true loves — beer and coffee. Coffee’s there in the morning and beer’s there in the night. They’re like the two sides of a superhero working together to keep me from losing my sanity.  

But now, Starbucks has launched a non-alcoholic beer coffee — more formally known as the Dark Barrel Latte and less formally known as my new favorite thing.

We’re lucky around Columbus because right now it’s on the test market, and you can only get it in Ohio and Florida.

It’s a latte that has the flavors of a dark stout beer. At first taste, it almost seems like a mocha, but then the aftertaste hits you and it’s fully a beer flavor. It’s the smoothness of coffee combined with the undeniable flavor of a beer. There’s no carbonation, so it doesn’t bite back at you, and there aren’t any hops, so it’s not bitter.

It’s sweet, robust and it’s incredibly smart of Starbucks.

It seems like almost everywhere you go (especially around Columbus), there’s a new brewery popping up. Craft beer is exploding and it doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon. In fact, the Brewers Association reported that craft beer brought in an estimated $14.3 billion in 2013. Billion. With a B. That’s about a 20 percent sales growth, which is really quite impressive.

So how can what might be America’s most well-known coffee chain capitalize on such a monstrous growth? Easy. The Dark Barrel Latte.

While most Starbucks don’t sell alcohol, they can cater to all the hipsters, middle-aged men and various other groups that won’t shut up about their craft beer. 

I think it’s genius because I don’t really like Starbucks. Sure, I’ll grab a cup every now and then, but I usually get overwhelmed by the menu and prefer sticking to local coffee that’s simpler and found in more intimate settings.

But when I heard that Starbucks was dropping a beer coffee (beer being used lightly here, I know it’s not really a beer), I had to go. It’s a way to drive in business, and whether I like it or not, it seems like it’s working.

Then again, Starbucks might not be the only one who sat around in a board room thinking of ways to drive up profits by combining two of the most perfect things.

Crimson Cup launched a Dry Hopped Nitro — a cold brew that has coffee and beer flavors — on Thursday. The company claims the drink has a “thick, frothy head and heavy cocoa nose.” I’m not really sure if that means it tastes like Santa Claus or if it tastes like coffee, but either way it’s intriguing enough for me to try it also.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, keep it up, world. Keep combining things together, and I’ll keep being an extremely happy coffee/beer/whatever-comes-next advocate.

One comment

  1. I REALLY don’t get it! What ever happened to just plain coffee? Not this hot milk flavored with coffee or pumpkin or beer… In the morning I like just plain coffee. Black and hot. Later on, a cold beer is great! Both stand alone and should stay that way.

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