Blending the Lines | Three Brewers Taking a Fresh Approach to Tea-Infused Beers
Beers with higher alcohol content typically aren’t what you consider refreshing. The booziness is hard to shy away from and can often be overwhelming. While some turn to colorful adjuncts and infusions to hide a higher ABV, some industrious brewers are taking a page from the blending book and brewing beer with tea and Kombucha. As beer hybrids continue to increase in popularity, tea-infused beers offer another enticing avenue for brewers looking to differentiate their portfolio and potentially appeal to an entirely new subset of drinkers. Whether it’s an IPA, Wit or Blonde Ale, tea is slowly but surely making its presence felt in the craft beer space. Here’s a look at three craft brewers who have mastered the craft.
Milwaukee Brewing Co | O-Gii Imperial Wit
Having been on their brewery tour multiple times, I’ve had my fair share of O-Gii. Instead of a full pour, they give you a half one. This surprised me at first, but after having a few of these it was easy to understand why. This does not drink like a 9.2% ABV beer and that’s a testament to the Sencha green tea and Chamomile used in this beer, which shines throughout.
The beer is a collaboration between the local Rishi Tea and is the creation of Head Brewer Kurt Mayes, who was uniquely inspired to create this beer based on his past experiences. “[I got the inspiration] from my years as a chef at a Chinese restaurant. I drank a lot of green tea and was a home brewer at the time and thought it would be a good flavor to add to a beer.”
Mayes selected a wheat beer with a light body so that the tea can shine through, leading to soft notes of ginger and orange that go down way too smooth given its alcohol content. The spicy zip of an authentic Witbier is present, but it plays second fiddle to a truly unique tea beer that I always search out when I’m back in Milwaukee.
New Holland Brewing | Kombucha IPA
While green tea can offer softer flavor characteristics, brewing a beer with kombucha is a whole different story given it’s tartness. With such a dominating flavor profile, it makes sense to pair it with an equal sense of hoppy bitterness, which was the case for New Holland’s newest seasonal, Kombucha IPA.
The idea for a Kombucha-inspired beer came naturally to the brewery, says Brand Manager Adam Dickerson, mostly because they actively make and drink Kombucha at their brewpubs. As demand for Kombucha grew, both internally and with consumers, the decision to brew with it became an obvious one. “That demand has grown over the years and we thought this spring was a great time to make our first production scale batch of Kombucha. Infusing that with a juicy IPA creates really complex and balanced flavors of acidity, bitterness, fruit flavors and spice.”
The result is an intensely-flavored IPA that is equal parts complex and appealing. Coming in at 5%, the beer is approachable yet packs a punch, with big hits of hoppy citrus and tart Kombucha spice. The balance between the flavors is a fitting conclusion for a beer that blends both unique drinks together after they’ve done their respective fermentation inside a cohesive canned product that is sure to excite curious IPA fans.
Rogue Ales | Kulture Clash Imperial Blonde Ale
Brewers love puns, so when you can blend a name pun into a new beer, both literally and figuratively, you do it. That was the case with Rogue Ales and their newest Kulture Clash Imperial Blonde Ale, which gives a nod both to the complex yeast cultures involved and the subsequent combination of both beer and Kombucha. This year’s collaboration with Brew Dr Kombucha looks to build on the success of last year’s inaugural release while elevating the flavor profile of Kombucha in new ways. “We loved last year’s Kulture Clash so much we knew we had to do something with Brew Dr. again this year,” said Rogue President Dharma Tamm.
According to Tamm, Rogue created a custom Imperial Blonde Ale with less hops and more body to ensure that it would pair well with Brew Dr’s Clear Mind Kombucha, which is a blend of rosemary, mint, sage and green tea. The result is a delightfully refreshing blonde ale offering big notes of bright mint flavors with a smooth yet slightly boozy finish. A perfect seasonal beer to round out Rogue’s spring portfolio.
If you’re looking to test your taste buds, I strongly recommend you try these few out and let me know of any other tea-infused beers you’re particularly digging in the comments. Cheers!
Feature image courtesy of Milwaukee Brewing’s Facebook page.