As mentioned in his last guest post, Geoff Norman is one of my favorite tea people. He is a beverage reviewer with an excellent sense of humor and a great amount of knowledge regarding both tea and beer. Naturally, when I came across the beer/tea phenomenon back some time ago, he was the first person I thought of. "Bartender, There's a Tea in My Beer" explored his initial thoughts on the pairing. Like a fine Die Hard sequel, he's back with a vengeance and reviewing additional tea/beer combinations. Check out Geoff’s thoughts on the combo! -Naomi, Owner of Joy’s Teaspoon
I had an itch on my day off – one that could only be scratched with caffeine and/or alcohol. The start of my day was spent in a tearoom and – pleasant, though it was – I required more festivi-“tea”. I have very few “me” days lately, it seems. I was determined to make my Saturday (in reality, a Monday) all about…well…me. Following a mandatory tea jaunt, I made my way to Northeast Portland. To those not familiar with Oregon, the northeastern part of our biggest burg is home to many things – hippies, homeless people, and plenty of beverages with hops in them. It also happens to be home to one of our most famous exports – Widmer. Yes, the Hefeweizen kings. My goal was happy hour and a certain beverage a friend of mine had told me about, a recent edition to their “Rotator” series – an IPA brewed with Assam black tea and various spices. In essence, a “Chai” PA.
I was pleased to find that the brewery’s attached bar was nearly unpopulated. A simple flagging of the bartender landed me a pint of their Spiced IPA and a menu. What to say… This stuff was strong with a capital “BICEP”. The forefront of the golden brew was hoppy as heck – a placeholder for all IPAs – but possessed a spicy underpinning throughout. It was difficult to pinpoint what spices came to the fold first, so I’ll just go with “allspice” as a general mouthfeel. It tapered off nice and bitterly, as it should. A perusal of their gift shop didn’t turn up a six-pack of the stuff, however. That was my only disappointment of the trip. But I left nice, slightly fuzzy, and all-around happy. Tea-drunk, literally, and only on one pint. On the way home, I had another itch. My daytime foray into tea-beer was not quite finished. As mentioned in my prior blog, I had also run across mention of a beer called Sah’tea put out by Dogfish Head – those wacky beerdorks out of Delaware. I had sampled several of their wares at brewfests of hither and yon, but had yet to try their one tea-beer attempt. It was an odd little chimera blended with wort caramelized over white-hot river rocks (their words), German weizen yeast, then flavored with juniper berries, black tea and spices up to wazoo.
It just so happened there was a specialty beer shop on my way home from Widmer. By “some happenstance”, I ended up pulling up and perusing. No one on staff knew what beer I was talking about, but I ended up finding it on sheer tea sense alone. (Yes, that is a thing.) Upon arriving home, I brought out my fancy-shmancy Ritzenhoff glass and poured the bottle as poetically as possible. Everything about this beer reminded me of a Belgian something-er-other. The color was gold-ish like a pale, but smelled like a dubbel or trippel. On taste, I had a sense of earthiness – likely imparted by the black tea and spices – but I wasn’t overwhelmed by them. The entire experience was sweet, smooth, and very Trappist in its tapered delivery. In short, it was the best day ever one could have with themselves…er…perhaps I should rephrase that. I had an awesome time. There, that’ll work. Weeks went by, and I thought my tea-beer dealings were done with. On a grocery run to the “poor mart”, I did my usual peek into the beer cooling closet. The summer seasonals were out in abundance – Belgian blondes, run-o’-the-mill IPAs, pilsners all over the place, and then I saw it...a lone six-pack I never thought I would see outside of a nature store or brew shop. Widmer’s Spiced IPA – in six-pack form. Since then, it’s been a staple in my fridge. When it’s too late for caffeine, and I’m burning the midnight oil – either writing or looking up cat pictures – I occasionally pop open a bottle o’ spice to lull me to the land of libations. And sometimes, I’ll take a self-portrait…against my better judgment. Either way, I consider this quest halted for now, but I hope other such offerings manifest in the future. I’ll wait (somewhat) patiently.