For our most recent beer, we chose to go outside the box slightly and create a unique flavor profile. To do this, we sampled teas and settled on a delicious Lychee Black Tea from Townshend's Tea Company to infuse in the beer. Brewing with adjuncts like tea or herbs is a fantastic way to experiment with classic styles and add your own style to it. Traditionally, most tea beers center around the pairing of an English Pale Ale or Bitter with an Earl Grey Tea or some sort of bergamot orange flavor. While I personally greatly enjoy these beers, our approach was to find a unique flavor that would give the beer a unique flavor profile.
Lychee fruit is an amazing flavor; it’s sweet, overly so, and has the texture of a soft raspberry. The sweetness that is imparted into the tea was there, but slightly muted, which we felt would be perfect and would avoid a “going overboard” effect. After all, we are firm believers that beer flavored beer is the best.
The most difficult part of using many adjuncts is “when is enough, enough?” and “how much should I use?”. This brings us to the issue of when to utilize your adjuncts. For us, when the adjunct allows for use on the cold side of the process. Like almost everything in life, not all adjuncts are created equal. We recently brewed a White IPA (more on that in another blog) which required using coriander, sweet orange peel and sage. These adjuncts are best used as a whirlpool or flame out addition for aromatic purposes and full extraction of flavor.
Because tea is high in essential oils, it can be used on the cold side of the process. We opted to add our tea to the cold crashed beer in the brite tank. This allows us to monitor the flavor extraction hour by hour to determine when the beer was ready. On a homebrew level, this might not be possible, so you may want to add the adjunct at a time that you know you will be available to sample it at specific intervals. For example, say you transfer your beer into secondary fermentation or conditioning on a Sunday mid-morning, if you were to add the tea and then head to your day job Monday morning, you might not be able to sample until later Monday night, over 24 hours. Instead of doing that, pitch after you eat dinner Sunday night, and then Monday night at the same time you can check it at 24 hours, which should yield results that you can make a judgement on to keep going or to pull the tea out.
Our cold tea steep took 45 hours to reach out desired taste profile, but it easily could be less or more for you, depending on what you want. Remember, it’s your beer!