Last July, physicist Mike Griffo, co-founder of Petaluma’s Griffo Distillery, began discussing a joint venture with Steve DeCosse, the co-founder of Petaluma’s Acre Coffee Roastery. The idea was to create something new by blending coffee from Acre’s Petaluma Boulevard roasting facility with freshly distilled spirits made at Griffo’s east side distillery.
The result, after months of development, testing and tasting, is Acre Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur, to be officially released Friday, Dec. 8, with a Big Lebowski-themed launch party at the Griffo tasting room.
According to Jennifer Griffo, the distillery’s other co-founder, and director of the operation, the potent new brew is more than just another product bearing the names of Griffo and Acre. It’s also a model of how small local businesses can collaborate in creative new ways to increase their individual markets, expand name recognition for each brand, and have a little fun in the process.
“The best part of what’s in this bottle is the collaboration itself,” said Jennifer Griffo, displaying a bottle of the new Coffee Liqueur. “Acre makes such beautiful coffees, and Griffo makes internationally acclaimed whiskies and gins. We’re both based in Petaluma. Why not try to make something together? One of the privileges of living and working here in Petaluma is being able to collaborate with other incredible businesses.”
Griffo Distillery, since opening its doors in April 2015, has quickly become known for its critically-acclaimed small-batch whiskies and gins, available at over a hundred Northern California restaurants, bars, markets and liquor retailers. Acre Coffee was founded six years ago by partners Steve DeCosse, Sharon Fitzgerald and Britt Galler. DeCrosse and Galler also operate an organic school lunch program known as Acre Gourmet, feeding more than 2,500 people daily in San Francisco.
The first Acre Coffee site, on Kentucky Street, was opened with little fanfare, but did not take long to build a faithful clientele. Now with its own roasting operation – under chief roaster Izzy Fraire – plus a total of three retail locations in Petaluma and two more in Santa Rosa, including its recently opened fifth location on 4th Street, Acre Coffee has rapidly become one of the fastest rising companies in Sonoma County.
“Unfortunately, for legal reasons, we can’t sell the Acre Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur at the Acre coffee shops,” said Griffo. “But we will be selling it here at the tasting room.”
Of the two company’s decision to team up for the limited release product, Jeffrey Caspary, Acre’s apprentice roaster and the husband of Acre partner Britt Galler, suggests it was a logical and mutually rewarding step for two rising operations to take.
“It just immediately seemed like a good idea, a natural marriage,” Caspary said. “Sonoma County is known for its food and the quality of its wines and beers. Doing something a little eye-opening, to call attention to our locally roasted coffees and our locally made spirits, just makes sense.”
Acre Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur is made by combining Griffo vodka, distilled on site but not available to the public, with cold brew coffee and very small amounts of raw sugar.
According to Mike Griffo, who largely oversaw the coffee liqueur project, the first major decision was to select the right coffee blend. To do so, a formal “cupping” was held. It’s a highly detailed, formal process of tasting coffee that is used around the world. From eight different coffees tasted during the cupping, Griffo narrowed it down to two.
“It was going to be either our Mocha Java or our 10/80 Blend,” Caspary said. “At the distillery, both were mixed with the Griffo vodka. The two coffee blends are more-or-less at opposite ends of the spectrum, the 10/80 being more bold and fuller bodied, and the Mocha Java having a bit more fruitiness and delicacy.”
Eventually, the Mocha Java was chosen as the best blend with Griffo’s vodka.
“It has a clean and clear taste, but with a richness and body behind it, that was just right,” Mike Griffo said. “Balancing the flavors of the coffee with the richness and sweetness of the alcohol, it was not that hard because the blend of coffee was such a perfect match.”
Acre and Griffo both have strong fan bases, Jenny Griffo said.
“There is some overlap, but there are plenty of people who don’t know about either,” she said. “Our fans tend to be similar, people who care about a high-end product, made carefully and with love. By creating a synergy between the two companies, and the communities they’ve developed, it makes both companies stronger.”
(Contact David Templeton at email@example.com.)