Baird / Ishii / Stone Collaboration – Green Tea IPA

Tasting: September 20, 2011
Style: IPA (at 9% ABV – I’ll call it Imperial)

I’ve been hearing about this collaboration for some time – I’m excited to see it hit the area beer shelves just this past week. It was mentioned in a Stone Facebook post a few months ago. For those not familiar – this beer is collaboration between three breweries – Stone and two Japanese breweries (Baird and Ishii). Support of this beer benefits Earthquake relief funds.

To me, tea seems to be a natural addition to beer. It isn’t overpowering — and will compliment many other flavors. Think tea with lemon then think lemon as a hop flavor. Tea can be earthy, herbal and sometimes bitter. I’ve also had green tea that imparted nutty flavors. Tea is really a complex ingredient and I wanted to know more about how they worked “green tea” into this recipe. I found the following entry on Stone’s blog:

We created this very special IPA, brewed with 100% Maris Otter Malt and Belgian Candi Sugar. Once we decided to tie it all together with the addition of Japanese Sencha Green Tea in a dry-hop, the rest of the recipe came together easily. We included hops that we believe would blend well with the tea flavors, and we went non-traditional, at least in the sense of American IPAs. After bittering with Warrior hops, we used Crystal and New Zealand Pacifica for flavor. And then for the first dry hop, we again used Crystal and Pacifica, and added a brand new hop variety, Aramis, from the Alsace region of France. Then we went all Japanese for the 2nd dry-hop, with Sorachi Ace whole lead hops and the Sencha Tea.

If I were to decipher the recipe, Maris Otter Malt is the base for a number of English style ales. The introduction of candied sugar pumps up the ABV – and they’ve accomplished that goal with a mark of 9.2%. They went for a moderate bittering hop to establish a nice balance between the English malt. If they left it at that they probably have a nice English pale ale – really a trademark of a lot of Stone’s beer. But, here’s where they work the magic and establish their reputation – they add the hop punch in the finishing and dry-hopping by picking two hop titans and they also “tea bag” the green tea. They don’t give the ratio on amounts used – but tea being a muted ingredient as compared to citrus of the hop, I would assume it would need a healthy share in order for the tea to come through in the flavor.

On we go — cloudy, medium-orange color, not much of a head. I can see quite a bit of “floaters” in this brew (hop and tea debris?). Definitely get honey and citrus on the nose. Reminds me of Arizona’s Green Tea. The first sip coats my mouth and puckers everything. Very crisp to say the least. Still have that honey/citrus — but the brawny pine hop punches through the sweetness. I can also easily recognize the subtle tea — herbal. After the hop finish wears off, I can taste the tea lingering on — nice. They have also done a nice job of masking the high alcohol here, it does start to show itself as this beer warms. I’ll give it high marks for originality and I’ll give it 90 points overall.

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