Coffees with heads you could stick flakes into have usurped our dainty cups of tea. When visiting people’s homes, tea was always the default offering. Coffee was a backup choice – back there with cocoa, hot chocolate and Ovaltine. Perhaps Britain’s decline in the world correlates with the dearth of raising our little finger.
Beer and coffee hybrids can be quite special. The alcohol relaxes and loosens you out, the coffee stimulates and hones you to a point. I find that on occasion the mixture of booze and caffeine can bring on a headache – especially if its ABV pounds into double figures.
This vertical tasting sees beers from Siren Craft Brew in Finchampstead, Hammerton Brewery in Islington and Pope’s Yard Brewery in Watford. Each different beer style has been blended with the herbal, the relaxing and the invigorating: tea.
Siren Craft Brew – Vermont Tea Party – bottle conditioned 3.6%
loose leaf pale ale with earl grey tea and lemon zest
This beer is based on Siren’s original tea beer – Love of Work. The yeast is from Vermont. Citrus zest has been used to complement Chinook, Citra, Equinox and Amarillo hops.
Decanted, the colour is lemony and turgid. The head rocks up like white nougat. You can hear it popping like Rice Crispies as it declines.
On the nose I certainly get the lemon zest but also some dark gritty malt like pumpernickel bread. The carbonation is zinging.
The malt in the aroma isn’t reflected on the palate. Lemon is the strongest taste that comes through. It’s easy-going, maybe not surprising considering its svelte ABV.
I like it. The beer made no claims of having a complicated character. It’s perfect for sipping outside in the summer – ideal for watching Wimbledon. The refreshment’s similar to a lime cordial or a lemon squash with the added “herbal high” of the tea. I do get a calming feeling; my heart rate feels as though it’s slowing.
|photo source: Wikipedia
The leaves of the traditional tea plant – Camellia Sinensis – contain L-theanine linked with reducing mental and physical stress, improving cognitive performance and lowering blood pressure. When brewers dry-hop, it’s virtually the same process as adding tea leaves to hot water. The heat teases out the oils and flavonoids.
Hammerton Brewery – Baron H – bottle conditioned 5.8%
earl grey black IPA
Baron H is short for Baron Howick, aka Earl Grey – the Prime Minister the tea is named after. This ale is hopped with Chinook, Cascade, Mosaic, Columbus and Summit.
The colour of the ale is deepest cola burgundy. The head is beige and beautiful; it builds high into a whisked batter of mismatched bubbles.
The aroma is appetising: a mixture of bergamot, ginger and chocolate malt. It smells more like a seed-based or wholegrain snack bar.
First sip is like a draught of coffee but it harbours friends with benefits. You’re led through a solenoid able to shoot you down three legs: the calming tea earthiness, the buzzing roast caffeine hit or the sweet stout creaminess. In fact, you’ll travel down each simultaneously.
It has a smooth malty mouthfeel too but the carbonation gives it vitality. There’s even a fennel note – presumably from the earl grey. There’s also a mild Marmite note (I’m a lover rather than a hater btw) and an zincy mineral water edge.
There’s loads going on but it’s well compiled and eminently moreable. You’l feel sated at the end.
|photo source: Wikipedia
Tea today is a varied creature. For one thing, unlike coffee beans, it isn’t actually anything specific. Different teas (more accurately “tisanes”) are made from different plants, buds, petals, fruits, roots, leaves and stems. In the last week alone I’ve had peppermint, stinging nettle, popcorn and roast almond tea.
Pope’s Yard Brewery – LSP – bottle conditioned 10.2%
lapsing souchong porter
This porter is made with many malts – Maris Otter, Crystal, torrified wheat, roast barley and black and chocolate malt. Target and Golding hops are then used with molasses.
The beer in the glass is pitch black and impenetrable to light. All I can see is the reflection of my nose made bulbous by the glass’ curves. There’s a brief head the colour of brown sugar that releases a sigh as it goes down; high ABV beers don’t often retain a mousse.
On the nose I get bitumen and liquorice. It smells like a rich dark dessert. It’s tantalising. The liquid when you rock it back and forth is viscous – again, no surprise for such a boozy heavyweight.
When I sip it with my schnoz almost touching the surface of the beer, I get peripheral minty notes on the inhale and get memories of Vicks VapoRub. You can feel the alcohol pixellate you but thankfully you can’t taste it. Bergamot comes through as you down it. It’s sticky on the lips like figs and there’s a taste a bit like biro ink.
On the palate it’s tangy with a fruity spiritous edge – stewed dark fruits – plums, blackberries, damsons, and black cherries. It reminds me also of the brandy you get in Kirsch chocolate liqueur sticks
It doesn’t weigh as heavy as you might think but considering the punch it packs, isn’t quite as interesting or intense as it could be.
The Lapsang Souchong porter is still worth investigating but outmatched in this taste-off. With another palate, another mood and another climate these thoughts could change.
My runner up would be Vermont Tea Party for its sunlight. The brewery is building a portfolio of bold recipes that occupy each weight division. This beer’s been brewed at the right time of year and quite a few hours could be whiled away on this. I think it could also be great on cask. I will seek it out for this summer’s beer garden sittings.
Baron H definitely wins this session. There’s so much going on you can dine out on it but it’s not so heavy you couldn’t have a several of them. It’s just right for its bottle dose. Each sip is a short cruise around the senses. I love how none of the characteristics overwhelm one another. I think it would go really well with an evening of Scandi crime drama on TV and a slice of coffee cake.