Tea blog posts usually become more and more coherent as they progress. The caffeine starts fueling increasingly enthusiastic prose, and the tension builds to some revelatory climax. This tea blog post will be nothing of the sort. In this post, I will be recounting a night of tea beer drinking, where the prose gets progressively more drunken and the climax is a heartfelt and slurred “This guy right here…this is the guy…th’s guy…I love you, man.”
For those of you who caught my last post, I was looking forward to venturing into the old neighborhoods of Beijing to have a night at Great Leap Brewery. The craft brewers from America are tucked away in an old courtyard style Chinese home that has a ton of character and is far off of the beaten path, if a little hard to find. It had been several months since my last visit. This visit was prompted by a 1,000 liter brewing of their latest concoction, Yunnan Amber.
Yunnan Amber Tea Beer from Great Leap Brewery
Yunnan Amber is brewed using black tea from Yunnan called Dian Hong [滇红]. It’s a deep blood-orange color. I decided to start off with a pint of the amber, while I still had my wits about me. The first sip revealed a strong sweetness. Floral on the entry (a product of the tea) and very bright with notes of sweet potatoes. The beer’s bitterness comes out after the entry and the finish is full of flowers. It’s a complex beer and I wanted another pint, but there was a problem. That problem being that the menu boasts several other tea flavored options, including a Silver Needle White (made with silver needle white tea ［银针]) and an Iron Buddha Blond (made with Tie Guan Yin [铁观音]). As a sacrificial duty to the tea blog, I abstained from a second amber and ordered a silver needle, but the pour was slow, and my friend came over with a round of Honey Ma Gold. Long story short, I fail at turning away free beer and the honey ma makes its way into the tea blog post.
The mildly numbing Honey Ma Gold
The round of honey ma, which doesn’t contain tea, but for the sake of science will be analyzed anyway, is made with Sichuan peppercorns. (photo below along with the puer tea that is lifting me out of a hangover) Sichuan Peppercorns [花椒] are the Ma [numb] in the Honey Ma name. For those readers who have never had Sichuan peppercorns, they numb the mouth, and are a staple of Sichuan cuisine. Great Leap Brewery made its name by making interesting brews combining Eastern and Western ingredients to make fusion brews like this. My first visit to Great Leap was due to this beer. The peppercorns leave a slight numbing in the mouth and throat that is unique in the beer world. It’s a spectacular beer, one of my favorites on their menu.
Sichuan Peppercorns on the left, 2002 6FTM puer on the right. Goodbye, hangover.
A couple of pints on the bar at Great Leap Brewery
The silver needle white was finally poured. A few beers deep at this point, so my smart phone notes are containing increasing amounts of mistyped notes. (my favorite being “2 sweat on entry”…I think I meant sweet) The silver needle white is the sweetest of the beers I will mention, much more so than the Yunnan Amber. Some jasmine flavors fight through the beers other elements, but the sweetness overrides most of the warring flavors. When discussing these beers with the brewers at Great Leap, they mentioned that it is a challenge to have the tea shine through when creating a beer. This tea is the best example of that struggle. The character of the tea is having a difficult time expressing itself in this beer.
Two pints of silver needle white (left and center) and a mystery pint on the right
The Iron Buddha Blond – made with Tie Guan Yin
The last tea beer of the evening, the Iron Buddha Blond, gets bonus points due to my being well lubricated by the time I drank it. I noted in my phone
Not sweet, lingering bitterness in the throat, honey on the tongue, pretty drunk, nice.
Wise words from a wise man. I don’t think the Iron Buddha got a fair shake in the review category, but I also noted it was my second favorite beer. Would I make an inaccurate statement like that when inebriated? Perish the thought. I did note there was some of the oolong showing up in the brew, but the Amber had the most pronounced tea character.
Tea Blog Tea Beer Ranks
Ranks for the beers:
- Yunnan Amber
- Iron Buddha Blond
- Honey Ma Gold (Doesn’t contain tea…but, it’s damn good, so why not?)
- Silver Needle White
I also tried to grab the attention of the two brewers present by offering puer from my personal stash to let them mess around with. There is a 2005 fake Zhongcha Yellow Label Shu that I have in mind. It’s dark and syrupy, lots of red date flavor. I can envision it in a porter, even though I couldn’t brew my way out of a paper bag. I hope they take me up on the offer, it would give me a reason to return for more beer and create another tea blog post fueled by alcohol.
Visit Great Leap on the web at (Directions/address are on there site): http://www.greatleapbrewing.com/