As two of the oldest and most beloved beverages around the world, tea and beer are now combining in an entirely new way. According to recently released data from the beginning of 2018, tea beers have started to surge in popularity across the US. But do these drinks have a lasting future, or will they be gone as quickly as they arrived? Read "Reading the Leaves: Do Tea Beers Have a Bright Future" to find out!
Tea and beer are having a moment. Since the beginning of 2018, a wave of new beers incorporating the ingredient have been released across the US. While such creations may seem strange to some, the combination of herbal notes, hop bitterness, and yeast make for a surprisingly tasty beverage. But what does the future hold for tea beers? Can these updated takes on a classic refreshment find a place among other popular low-alcohol drinks?
Though craft brewing has been enjoying a resurgence in recent years, the addition of tea to beers is relatively new. With its experimentations with textures, flavors, and ingredients, craft brewing is perpetually pushing the envelope. The infusion of beer with tea is the latest extension of this narrative.
Tea beers - that is, those that do not use tea extracts, which are more common - are beginning to pop up in bars and breweries across the country. Using a vast range of teas as inspiration, brewers have introduced everything from IPAs flavored with Earl Grey to chocolate stouts brewed with lapsang souchong. In addition to this smorgasbord of flavors, brewers are also experimenting with the way they present tea beers. Some brews include tea leaves directly, while others infuse the flavors and aromas of dried tea.
When talking to brewers, the incorporation of tea often comes up as a broad inspiration rather than a specific preference. Many brewers cite the flavor profile of tea beers and the ability to express that profile through variation.
Brewer Matty Mathews of Milwaukee’s Enlightened Brewing Company believes that tea beers are “an opportunity to be creative and draw on the wide range of flavors that come from tea.” He sees them as another way to interpret a traditional beer style, as evidenced by Enlightened’s Jasmine IPA.
For some, the appeal of tea beers is nutritional. “We want to make beers that people can feel good about drinking,” explains Rob Fink, the head brewer of D.C.’s Right Proper Brewing Company. The brewery offers a number of low-alcohol, tea-infused beers designed with health-conscious drinkers in mind.
It makes sense that many brewers are conscious of nutritional benefits when it comes to tea beers. Tea has been celebrated for centuries for its unique medical properties - often referred to as polyphenols - which range from digestion to anti-inflammatory properties. While it is unknown the extent to which these properties are retained in beer form, the presence of tea can still signal an all-around healthier drink.
The addition of tea to beers also generally translates to fewer calories and less alcohol. This can result in lighter, more drinkable beverages ideal for lunch dates, long days in the sun, or just a casual craft beer session.
Though tea-infused beers represent a relatively small portion of the craft beer market, the trend is growing. Of those brewers who’ve adopted the practice, many cite the success of their tea beers as the sign of things to come. With the increasing demand for beverage experimentation and health-awareness in the craft beer industry, tea beers look set to play a much bigger role - both at local breweries and in the mass market.
Craft beer and tea seem made for each other, in terms of both taste and market appeal. Though still relatively new, tea-infused beers have garnered a growing fanbase in recent years. With the craft beer industry continuing to expand, it seems certain that tea beers will only increase in popularity for the foreseeable future. Here are some of the reasons why:
When deciding to brew a tea-infused beer, there’s often no better teacher than the flavor and