Cold Brew Re-view: Stumptown’s “Holiday Cheer”

Stumptown created the cold brew market, and is currently watching all other coffeeshops from its pedestal on high as they scramble to keep up. Hell, they even own coldbrew.com. Before Stumptown I had never heard of cold brew; now nearly every coffeeshop has some form of the beverage sitting in a jug in their fridge, even Starbucks. It’s not surprising–cold brew is stupidly easy to make, and cutting back on the acidity can result in some amazing flavor notes to a drink in an industry seemingly striving for any innovation they can get their latte-art-drawing hands on.

Currently, Stumptown has three varieties of cold brew that they sell regularly: the stubbie bottle, which is simply cold brew, cold brew with milk, and mocha, or cold brew with milk and chocolate. Having tried all three (in the same day, wouldn’t recommend that), I can say confidently that the stubbie bottle is by far the best, and really showcases how delicious cold brew can be. It doesn’t really need anything added to it, and often cold brew has strong chocolate notes to it that make it almost overkill to pour milk or cream or sugar into it.

[UPDATE: Ryan, that little minx, reminded me that Stumptown has cold brew in more than three variations, including their nitro and cold brew on tap. I’ve had the nitro and thought was weird but good.]

I bought “Holiday Cheer” today, Stumptown’s seasonal cold brew drink, which is made with mulling spices, the type you might add to mulled wine or cider. I love me some mulling spices. The ingredients include cinnamon, orange peel, allspice, and cloves, also known as the Four Horsemen of Mulling Spices. The only other ingredients are cold brew, half-and-half, sugar, and carrageenan, my favorite Star Wars bounty hunter.

The result is so so. The worst part is the smell. I swear when I opened the carton and lifted the opening to my lips it smelled like ass. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Josh, how do you know what ass smells like? Do you spend your day smelling asses?” But let’s be honest, we all know what ass smells like. Don’t delude yourself. For some reason, the mixture of the carton itself, the spices, and the coffee/milk combo smells like ass. It doesn’t smell like ass unless my nose is right up against the carton. This is disconcerting! Ass is the last thing you want to smell before you drink a light brown beverage.

The spices are hardly detectable over the primary taste of cold brew coffee. Also, a big problem I have with all the cold brew concoctions Stumptown makes is that they all taste watered down. They taste like milk cut with water more than they do a milk beverage with coffee in it. It’s hard to explain, but it seems like if it was a milk drink with coffee in it (a latte, in other words), it would taste … fuller. This tastes like a lot of water with a bit of milk, and a touch of spices. You know when you buy a new technological gadget and you can tell it’s kind of cheaply made? This is what Stumptown’s cold brew drinks taste like to me. Which is silly, because for $4 you know this isn’t cheaply made.

So, if you’re really looking for some kind of specialty drink, I highly recommend Heart’s spiced pumpkin latte. It’s a buck more for 16oz but it’s so worth it. If you’re really curious, shell out the $4 for Holiday Cheer but I doubt you’ll buy a second one.

OVERALL SCORE: Meh.

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