It’s all a matter of taste – some love it, others find it abhorrent. But the trend in American microbrews cannot be denied – tea is now hot in the beer space. Home brewers’ forums are abundant with flavor ideas and recipes, techniques, and reviews… which include tea.
Big beer companies and microbreweries alike are constantly innovating, trying the next twist on fizzy fermentation, and given the stat that tea’s the most popular non-alcoholic beverage, it isn’t a big surprise that beers are now being flavored with the leaf. This is not the first appearance tea has made in alcoholic beverages. Even if only in name, any bartender knows how to make a Long Island iced tea – a cocktail with a taste reminiscent of tea, even if it isn’t usually made with any tea whatsoever. And over the past five years you couldn’t walk down a single aisle in the liquor store without coming across green tea as a featured ingredient in anything from vodka to digestifs.
Also common in the past decade are many incarnations of beers flavored with coffee or chocolate. Both of these pair nicely, especially with darker, stronger beers. More recently, however, there has been an increasing movement in new beer flavors infused with tea. The trend began with microbrews, but today even the big companies are jumping on the bandwagon. Boston Beer (which owns Samuel Adams) now markets “Twisted Tea” – a hard beverage iced tea, and Molson Coors Brewing Company now offers “Coors Light Iced T” – also a tea-flavored version of Coors’ classic light beer.
One of our newest microbreweries in hometown Boulder, Colorado – FATE Brewery – released a new beer which features Earl of Grey as a flavor ingredient. Called “Apollo Tsai,” this microbrew is a Honey Wheat hopped up in the India Pale Ale style. It was infused with Earl of Grey tea leaves that were steeped in a 3 barrel brewer. The result is a complex wheat beer that shows a bit stronger bitterness from the hops and a bang of citrus finish displaying a beguiling balance of earl grey bergamot and hop flower citrus. Apollo is the Greek god of music. Tsai is the Greek word for tea. The brewers at FATE chose to name it after the god of music, since this beer was done as a collaboration with Kyle Hollingsworth, of the band The String Cheese Incident. Of course… we like to think that Apollo’s drink of choice would naturally be made with tea!
Photo by Elise Ridgway of The Tea Spot.