By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Sep 25, 2014 at 11:04 AM

Medium to full bodied.
Dry and balanced.
Toffee and dark chocolate malt.
Coffee flavor and aromatics are fantastic.

Listening to Robb Kashevarof and Joe Gilsdorf describe the flavors of the new Stevens Point Brewery Whole Hog Espresso Stout, which incorporates their coffee, is a bit like listening to music.

The beer is part of the Whole Hog Brewmaster’s Specialty Series, a collection of limited-release brews that represent the epitome of the brewmaster’s art. And the fact that the company is using Valentine Coffee is all about serendipitous connections.

"Point hired a new brew master and a quality control manager a few years ago," Gilsdorf explains. "They knew they wanted to work together on an espresso stout from the beginning; but, they were only able to get around to it more recently. And it just so happened that their director of sales knows Robb and I."

"They wanted someone who used the same philosophies for coffee as they used for brewing – the same dedication," adds Kashevarof. "So, they came down and tasted through all the coffees and brewing methods. Then we went up by them and tasted through their whole line-up.

"When we got done tasting through all the beers, it was really interesting. The way we talk about care and processing and taste and commitment, you could have subbed out beer or coffee in any of those conversations."

The beer, which is made from two types of coffee – a cold steep of Sumatra coffee in the mash tun, followed by coarsely ground espresso blend in the hot mash – produces a brew with rich coffee notes that’s both drinkable and true to stout character.

But, having its coffee featured in a local brew isn’t even the biggest news for Valentine Coffee Roasters, a company that’s been growing by leaps and bounds since its inception in 2009.

Last year, the company built out a tasting room, inviting the public to enjoy their coffee in the comfort of a friendly coffee shop environment alongside complementary items from local bakeries.  In the past year, Valentine has installed two new coffee roasters in their facility at 5918 W. Vliet St., added four new full-time positions, and – most recently – secured a MEDC loan to buy the building that houses their roastery and tasting room, as well as the parking lot next door.

Valentine has also been approved for a Class B Tavern license for its tasting room.

"Our vision is to expand our menu offerings to include small plate items such as charcuterie and cheese, various savory and sweet spreads and fresh bread," Kashevarof says. "To accompany these items, we would like to offer a limited, yet thoughtful selection of beer and wine. We’d also like to bring to Milwaukee the first craft coffee cocktail menu, utilizing local and imported liquors and spirits."

Wine, Gilsdorf says, only makes sense.

"Just given our background, you can’t talk to us about coffee without us giving parallels between coffee and wine and terroir. So, to be able to offer a well-curated wine list in addition to coffee, only makes sense."

But, cocktails resonate with the two owners even more deeply.

"All of our peers in the industry are doing this," Kashevarof explains. "We’re doing this really because we want to showcase our coffee in a different context. That’s why we pushed it to the level of a Class B license. We can’t do what we want to do without connecting it to the spirits."

Gilsdorf and Kashevarof, along with employees Aaron Cleaveland, Mark Bergemann and Michael Cothroll will design the cocktails – which will be orchestrated in a way that stays true to the character of the coffee.

"You have to get the espresso right before you mix the rest of the cocktail," Gilsdorf notes. "Aside from that, the cocktails will be a wide open thing – always evolving."

And that evolution includes introducing customers to flavors they may never have imagined.

"We’ve been really digging a double shot of espresso served on the rocks with green absinthe and just a touch of simple syrup infused with Madagascar vanilla bean," Kashevarof says. "There’s also a take on sangria that we make using iced coffee. The sky is really the limit."

Valentine Coffee Roasters is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.