Being a primarily barrel-aged brewery, production planning often has to happen months to years in advance. These planning meetings usually start with us sitting down and talking about our favorite beers and what styles we are anxious to make. This brainstorm usually yields pages of ideas that we then sift through and prioritize based on factors like fruit harvests, how much time they will probably need to spend in the barrel, what type of barrels we have available, etc. Then this slightly smaller list gets chopped down even more based on our production volume limits and time schedules. But occasionally awesome beer ideas and partnerships will fall right into our laps; this was the case with Indi's Gold, our petite Saison with black tea.
I was over at a friend's house for dinner one night when about halfway through the meal we heard a knock on the door. It was a friend of my host's that was there to drop off some tea she had gotten for supporting his Kickstarter campaign. After he left, my friend filled me on his project and where I could find out more about it. After reading about the company that night I was very excited to find a way to partner with them.
I found out that Raj (who delivered the tea) had started a tea company here in Springfield after a Fulbright Fellowship took him to the Kumaon region on the border between India and Nepal working with a non-profit to create dignified rural livelihoods. It was there that he struck a deal with the local communities that if they would grow tea he would introduce their teas into the US- thus began Young Mountain Tea.
I emailed Raj the next day to see if he would be interested in collaborating on a beer that used one of his teas. The next week Raj came over to the brewery to walk me, Matt and Doug through an in-depth tasting of all his teas. This was a phenomenal experience. When it comes to beer Matt, Doug and I have very trustworthy pallets but we needed some schooling on the complex and subtle flavors of white and black teas. We landed on a black tea grown in the Nilgiri Mountains by grower Indi Khanna because of its bright citrus and fruity characteristics as well as its soft tannin structure.
Tea Saisons are a favorite style of mine so we started with a Saison base for our collaboration with Young Mountain Tea. We wanted to make sure we didn't overpower the nuances of the tea so we brought the alcohol level and bitterness down to make a petite Saison. We then added 15lbs of Indi's Gold tea in the bright tank as a "dry hop" to maximize its aromatic impact. The final product is a delicious hazy Saison with a mild fruity and clove note from fermentation that finishes with a hint of earthiness, citrus, and a slight tannic dryness from this wonderful tea.
The best surprise of this partnership was an email I received from Raj with a video from a very excited Indi in support of this beer!!
Now all we need to do is to figure out an Indian distributor so I can get Indi some beer to "sip or guzzle!!!"