"The story goes back a while," Zien said. "I’m the second owner of AleSmith. When I came on in July 2002, I took the brewery over from it’s previous owner, Skip Virgilio. He had birthed Speedway Stout back in 1997 because he wanted to develop a stout with coffee in it."
That version of Speedway Stout, according to Zien, was a far cry from the present-day iteration of the beer, sporting a lower alcohol by volume and less complexity. While it had always been a coffee stout with strong java taste, Zien wanted it to be less of a novelty beer and more of an experience.
"I had one employee when I started here, Todd Fitzsimmons [AleSmith’s Head Brewer]," said Zien. "And as soon as we took over, we started on changing Speedway. We really upped the ABV, from 8% into the 12.5% monster it is now. But more importantly, we wanted to develop this rich, dark beer that isn’t as roasted as most dark beers. We wanted to have a rich coffee flavor, but we also wanted chocolate and caramel and a bunch of other notes in the beer’s body. We kept its coffee base, but we didn’t let it dominate the beer.”