Tea and Beer
I’m a big fan of beer. In fact, I used to write a beer column for a local newspaper a few years back. I’ll often have a beer when I start dinner, and switch to tea at the end. I even took a seminar at World Tea Expo about pairing tea and beer, looking for common flavor characteristics in different styles of the two beverages. A conversation with fellow tea blogger Robert Godden (Lord Devotea’s Tea Spouts), however, got me thinking about the possibility of actually combining the two. You know, putting beer and tea in the same glass. Yeah, Robert’s a strange one.
But why not?
There are beer styles exemplified by certain flavors, which you might get from additives like fruit or other grains, or you might get from doing strange things to the barley, like smoking it. Why not get those flavors from tea? Especially that smoky one…
A buddy of mine, Doug “Beerbarian” Bailey, works at our local brewery, Red Lodge Ales. Doug is a sales guy, but he still understands beer pretty well. He and I both go for smoky flavors. We drink lapsang souchong and Russian caravan tea. We drink smoky rauschbier. We drink Islay Scotches like Laphroaig, which just ooze peat and smoke. We even enjoy the same pipe tobaccos.
So Doug and I had a long discussion about flavoring beer with tea — especially about making our own variety of rauschbier by adding smoked tea to a nice robust beer. It was a wonderful discussion, but we didn’t follow through on it. And then, months later, I get a private message from him on Facebook:
Initially, we’d been talking about actually adding the tea leaves to the kettle while brewing the beer, but Doug was in a hurry. He proposed adding the tea to beer that was already brewed and sitting in the keg. This brings up a few complications, like how to avoid watering down the beer and how to pour tea into a full keg of carbonated beer.
The solution to the first problem was simple: just make the tea really strong so we don’t have to use much of it. In fact, to avoid diluting the flavor of the beer, we went right past “really strong” to “stupid strong.” And as for the second problem, Doug came up with a set of fittings that allowed us to put the tea into an empty keg, pressurize it, and then add the contents of a full keg of beer to it.
The more we talked about the solutions to the problems, the more we realized making just one beer wasn’t going to cut it, so when experiment day arrived, Doug grabbed the kegs of beer and I brewed three stupid strong batches of tea from Red Lodge Books & Tea to match them.
We started by adding carefully measured amounts of the übertea to glasses of beer. Instead of wrecking our palates with the smoked tea, we started with a lighter one. The beer is Helio Hefeweizen, a light and citrusy unfiltered wheat beer. I paired that with a cinnamon orange spice rooibos tea. I had brewed the tea with 1 ounce of leaf to 8 ounces of boiling water and steeped it for six minutes. It didn’t take a whole lot of tea to give the beer a wondrous spicy flavor with an orangy nose. We settled on 940 ml of strong tea in the 5-gallon keg of beer. It was a rousing triumph. We made a bit extra so I could take a growler home with me.
Our second experiment was completely off the wall. Doug did say he wanted something “wacky,” so I paired their Beartooth Pale Ale with an infusion of one of my own special tea blends, which I call “Coyotes of the Purple Sage.” It’s an Earl Grey made with black tea, sage, and a hint of mint. I didn’t brew it quite as strong (same amount of leaf as the first one, but with a 5 minute infusion). Our first experiment was rather overwhelming, so we backed down the ratio, using 750 ml of tea in the 5-gallon keg.
I’m not going to call this one an overwhelming success. The sage and bergamot was just a little strange in the pale ale.
The final beer was the one that started all this. We used a Russian Caravan tea, 1 ounce of leaf per 8 ounces of water, brewed for 4 minutes. The base beer is Jack’s Scottish Ale. We played around with the proportions for a bit, and ended up using 900 ml of tea per five gallon keg. We made two kegs: one for Doug’s special event, and one to put on tap in the tasting room that night. Doug named it “Smokin’ Jack.” It was exactly what we were trying to accomplish!
This will not be the last time I bring together my loves of beer and tea. Maybe it’s getting to be time to dust off all of my old homebrewing equipment and get to work.
Orange Spice Carrot Cake Muffins
As promised, here’s the second recipe from our recent Chamber of Commerce party. Our food theme was cooking with tea, and this was a variant of a recipe that Bigelow Tea originally published. Obviously, we substituted teas that we sell at our Tea Bar for what they originally suggested.
In the muffins themselves, Kathy used our Cinnamon Orange Spice Ceylon tea, which adds some nice black tea flavor to the pure herbal blend in the original recipe.
For the frosting, she used one of my house blends: Hammer & Cremesickle Red Tea (you can order it here). The honeybush, rooibos, orange, and vanilla give it a sweet, rich, creamy flavor.
We made mini muffins, since they were being served hors d’oeuvre style. Feel free to try this as full-sized muffins or even a cake tin. Just adjust the baking time a bit.
- 1/2 ounce of Cinnamon Orange Spice Ceylon Tea
- 1/2 cup water
- 1-3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1 can of mandarin oranges
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp fresh-grated orange zest
- 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2-1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cups shredded carrots
- Boil water and add to tea. Steep for 6 minutes and strain out leaves.
- Heat oven to 350 F.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, eggs, and vegetable oil. Mix thoroughly at high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until thick and creamy.
- Drain the can of mandarin oranges (discard the liquid), and add it to the mixing bowl, along with the tea, vanilla, and orange zest. Continue mixing until well blended.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add this blend to the mixing bowl and mix at low speed for another 1-2 minutes.
- Add the shredded carrots and continue mixing until well blended.
- Scoop the batter into muffin tins, either using paper muffin cups or spraying the tins with non-stick spray. Fill a bit over 1/2 full.
- Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
- 1/4 ounce Hammer & Cremesickle Red Tea
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 eight-ounce package of cream cheese
- 1 tbsp butter (softened)
- 3-1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- Boil water and add to tea. Steep for 6 minutes and strain out leaves.
- Combine butter and cream cheese in a mixing bowl. Mix at high speed for one minute or until light and creamy.
- Add 2 tbsp of tea from step 1 and mix well.
- Add confectioner’s sugar and mix thoroughly for 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth and creamy.
- After the muffins have cooled, frost the top of each one with frosting.
These were a smash hit at the party, along with the Hipster Hummus recipe that I posted last week, and a couple more that I’ll be posting soon (next in the series: Meatballs in Lapsang Souchong Cream Sauce).