Atlantic Ellen’s Coffee Stout
Atlantic Ellen's Coffee Stout

By Andy Phelps

Atlantic and Bar Harbor Brewing are sister breweries out of coastal Maine that produce solid, underrated beer and have been doing so for quite a while. Atlantic has recently put out some new bomber-format offerings that the price seemed right for. I've also had Old Macfoochie's Scottish Ale, which was a pretty nice, malty, robust wee heavy with heather tips, but I never got around to writing about it. This is supposed to be a milk stout (apparently these are a thing now) with natural Madagascar vanilla and an addition of freshly roasted coffee from Crooked Porch, also located in Bar Harbor. It clocks in at a nice 5.4 percent, which means it should be nice and mellow to sip on a cold evening such as this one!

Ellen's pours a solid black with a tannish mocha head that sits solidly on top of the dark abyss holding it up. It dissipates from an initial three fingers down to a single-finger ring that doesn't seem about to go anywhere, and the lacing from the foam also sticks around more than I figured it would! Good-looking beer. Bar Harbor makes one of America's very best dry stouts, Cadillac Mountain Stout, so these two breweries know their stuff when it comes to dark beers.


The nose is nice with burnt coffee beans, fairly roasty malts, a slight toffee sweetness and creamy note bubbling up through the darkness. The roast is strong with this one, for sure; it dominates the nose and lends a bit of acridity when combined with the deep coffee scent. On the tongue, I get a surprisingly light and tasty note of the aforementioned vanilla which sweeps in and out on the palate while the malty heft and solid dose of roastiness kick around as well. The feel is lively, bubbly and light-weight with a complexion more like a porter than a heavy, creamy stout. I have a feeling that may change as this warms; the creaminess already seems to be coming out a bit more as I sip and let this breathe. This isn't a strong beer, but it also doesn't feel quite as weak as it lets on, with a slight kick to it in the middle of the palate, along with the mellow sweetness of the vanilla backing everything up. There's a suggestion of steely, earthy hop underneath all of this, making the finish pretty satisfying.

This is a solid job creating a "sweet stout" that doesn't overdo any one flavor, but also feels a bit conservative. The coffee, vanilla and lactose are all there, but there's no wow factor. And that's honestly fine, but it does make the beer a bit harder to talk about because nothing stands out. A well-made style piece for sure, with a nice feel that works its way around the tongue proficiently, but it's not going the extra mile. As I pour more into my glass and swish it around to re-rouse the carbonation, I'm picking up some slightly chalky tones and a suggestion or two of loose tobacco, but they don't really come out in the flavor with all of that lactose and vanilla providing the backbone alongside the burnt malts. The beer never really comes off as round as I figured it eventually would; it seems to consistently stay rigid. A solid beer for a good price according to its ABV; pick it up if you want to try some New England dark beer for what is likely to be a vicious winter! Cheers!

The official breakdown:

  • Style: Milk / Sweet Stout
  • ABV: 5.4%
  • Appearance: Intensely dark with a cloudy mocha head that eventually settles to a tan-beige rim unless roused by swirling; good soapy lacing and quite solid retention
  • Scent: Dark roasted coffee, burnt malt husks, roasted barley, tobacco, slightly sweet cream suggestion with a touch of the vanilla mentioned on the label
  • Taste: Big vanilla and milk sugar (think melted sugar cubes in coffee) with some caramel and a huge roasty malt undercurrent; dark toffee, molasses and earthy hops
  • Mouthfeel: Pretty lively and bubbly with a bright definition in spite of its dense appearance... eventually has a little more levity, but basically light-medium
  • Drinkability: I like the beer but it doesn't push any real buttons and plays it rather safe, which is acceptable but not fantastic; good combination of flavors though