Innovating With Tea in the Microbrew Space

The results can be amazing or abhorrent… and as someone who works in a foodie company, I’m very often reminded – taste is a just matter of opinion!  Home brewing forums are now bursting with tea flavor ideas and recipes, infusion techniques, and reviews of tea beers.

Home brewers and beer companies alike are constantly innovating toward the next twist on refreshment, and given the fact that tea is the world’s most popular non-alcoholic beverage refreshment, it’s no surprise that beer is now being flavor-paired with teas. Surely, this isn’t the first time that tea has appeared in spiked beverages, at least in name.  Any bartender can make you a Long Island iced tea, and you’ll get an alcoholic drink with a flavor reminiscent of tea, even though it’s typically not made with any tea at all.  And in recent years, Green Tea has been a loudly featured ingredient in everything from liqueurs and spirits to mixed drinks.

You could historically find many examples of beers flavored with coffee on the market. Both chocolate and coffee pair well with stronger beers, particularly stouts.  The past couple of years, however, have seen an increasing trend in beers infused with tea from various microbreweries, and now, even the big boys are coming to the table with tea beers. Samuel Adams parent company, Boston Beer, now markets Twisted Tea, a hard iced tea beverage and Molson Coors Brewing Company is now offering Coors Light Iced T – an iced-tea-flavored version of their classic light beer.

Apollo Tsai (2)

Photo courtesy of Elise Ridgway of The Tea Spot

Boulder, Colorado’s FATE Brewery just released a superb new microbrew which features our Earl of Grey as a flavor ingredient.  Named “Apollo Tsai”, the beer is an American Honey Wheat that was hopped up like an India Pale Ale. It was blended with Earl of Grey tea leaves that we steeped on a 3 barrel brewer. The result is an amazingly complex wheat beer that has a little more bitterness from the hops and the most amazing citrus finish that displays an intriguing balance of earl grey citrus and hop flower citrus.

The beer falls under the Hoppy Beer naming structure at FATE Brewery. One of FATE’s core beers, the Moirai IPA, is named after the three women who in Greek mythology determined man’s fate. So every hoppy beer FATE produces will have a Greek name relating to the beer and mythology. In this case- Apollo is the Greek god of music and Tsai is the Greek word for tea. So the brewers at FATE chose to name it after the god of music, since this beer was a collaborative creation with musician Kyle Hollingsworth, of the band The String Cheese Incident. And, the brewers at FATE told me that they like to think that Apollo’s drink of choice would naturally be beer mixed with tea!