Tea slips surprisingly well into a beer’s flavor profile.
Sun Drift by Allagash
Credit: Courtesy of Allagash Brewing Company

If you’re familiar with stouts, you’re also probably familiar with coffee stouts. The dark, roasted, often chocolatey style of stout pairs perfectly with coffee’s corresponding notes, and over the years, coffee stouts have become commonplace in the beer world — especially in winter when these sorts of heavy flavors can help hold you down. Tea beers, on the other hand, are a bit less common, but just as tea can serve as a counterpoint to coffee, these typically lighter brews can be fantastic during warmer months — and one of the most reliable names in the beer world is rolling one out in the lead up to spring.

Maine’s Allagash Brewing has just released Sun Drift — a bright brew spiked with lemon zest and black tea from nearby producer Little Red Cup. Additionally, as is often the case with Allagash, which leans towards Belgian-style beers, Sun Drift is fermented with Brettanomyces yeast to help give this already tart 6.7 percent ABV beer a funky edge. “This beer’s flavor goes beyond the sum of its ingredients,” Brewmaster Jason Perkins said in the announcement, likening the results to the equivalent of a kind of fancy beer version of an Arnold Palmer.

If you’re new to beer made with tea, you might be surprised how well tea can slip right into the flavor profile of a brew. Think about it this way: Malt in beer imparts a touch of grainy sweetness and hops can range from fruity and tropical to more herbal and bitter flavors. Tea’s tendency towards astringency can cut sweet and fruity notes or meld with herbal and bitter notes to help ground a beer and tie it into a different sort of package. That’s especially true nowadays when brewers really like to push the juicier, more tropical flavors of hops. Similar to bittering hops, tea can provide a nice stable backbone.

Admittedly, I’ve yet to try Sun Drift, so I can’t speak to this beer specifically, but with Allagash’s track record of making great brews, my guess is Sun Drift will probably be a solid treat as the weather warms up. Regardless, definitely keep an eye out for beers spiked with a bit of tea in general. CraftBeer.com compiled a solid list of tea beers worth trying ahead of last summer.