No Corporate Beer Reviews: Prison Rodeo

Beer: Prison Rodeo
Brewery: Prairie Artisan Ales (Krebs, OK)
Style: IPA – Imperial/Double
9.5% ABV / 80 IBU

Coffee IPAs – the next great craft beer trend? Probably not, and possibly never. On one hand, coffee stouts are played out and predictable. So we should all be getting excited about any fusion of coffee and beer that’s roasty and hoppy, but with a lighter base. On the other hand, it’s almost a bridge too far for the more mainstream – and better distributed – end of indie breweries, with the notable exception of Rogue’s Cold Brew IPA. But as of 2019, the coffee IPA is still the providence of the weirder alchemists, like Mikkeller, Three Floyd’s, Adroit Theory, and the like.

I’d put Oklahoma’s Prairie Artisan Ales in that experimental class. And I’d rate Prairie’s Prison Rodeo fairly high on the scale of coffee IPAs, just a smidge behind To Øl’s near-perfect Black Malts & Body Salts Black Coffee IIPA. Prison Rodeo features a mixture of Idaho 7, mosaic, summit, and simcoe hops, plus Ethiopia Sidamo Guji coffee from Spaceship Earth Coffee in McAlester, Oklahoma. Prairie has played with adding coffee to its Bomb! series of stouts before, but this is the brewery’s first time matching coffee with anything else.

Former Decibel beer columnist Adem Tepedelen liked to use the phrase “shouldn’t work but does” to describe the type of chimerical invention that really, really surprises you. Prison Rodeo shouldn’t work, but it sure does – the beer pours with a hazy golden brown color and a nice head. The coffee adds additional roast-y notes and harmonizes with the hops, in the same way that a great IPA finds a balance between malt and hops. Shout out to the label which riffs on the famous painting Guernica. Picasso once described his process as “I paint the objects for what they are.” This is what Prison Rodeo is all about – a clear rendering of coffee and beer inhabiting the same space, nothing more, nothing less.