To any Melbourne-based beer fan, just the name of the country stirs up memories of afternoons and nights spent destroying your bank balance at the Belgian Beer Gardens/Cafe.
It also brings to mind rich, flavoursome blonde and brown brews – which always seemed to pack a hefty alcohol punch.
So it came as a surprise (seeing as I brought this beer about two years ago when I first started to track down odd beers) to find a Belgian Tea Beer.
No, that’s not a mis-print.
Yes, they do make beer with tea.
It stems from the lambic tradition of brewing, which began many hundreds of years ago (there are accounts of Lambic recipes dating back to 1559).
Basically speaking, the brew begins its life just like any other beer. However, instead of adding yeast to the mix to kick-start the brewing process, lambic beer makers actually let the naturally occurring yeast and microbacteria in the air to do their thing, resulting in something called ‘spontanous fermentation’.
The beer is kept fermenting for an extended period of time – sometimes up to a year or two – with different flavours developing depending on where the beer is brewed, and what fruit additivites it has.
Lambic beers can also undergo a secondary fermentation, where the beers are ‘freshened up’ by the addition of more fruits, or fruit-based syrups.
Lindeman’s Tea Beer was first brewed in 1995, and it somehow made its way over to Australia where I happened upon the bottle.
Three things to note:
1) The bottle I found had “Lindemans Tea Beer” on the label, and the rest of the writing was in Japanese. And it’s a Belgian beer. Logically how this works I’m still not entirely sure.
2) When they say ‘Tea Beer’, they aren’t kidding. It smells like a pot of tea.
3) When they say ‘Tea Beer’, they still aren’t kidding. It tastes like someone’s poured a lemon/citrus ice tea into my beer.
To finish it off, there’s a unique sour aftertaste consistent with many lambic beers.
It’s truly weird.