Just when we thought that we had seen, smelled, and swigged it all, from wine coolers back in the ’90s to the many iterations of flavored soda and malt beverages that drink makers have attempted in the time since, a package arrived at the Dig from a company called Hoplark out in Boulder. In it, we discovered a veritable cornucopia of various cans of HopTea, which the friendly Coloradoans describe thusly:
Not your grandma’s sweet tea. Hoppy, but with less punch than your best friend’s IPA, HopTea is for those looking to fuel their curiosity.
Friends Dean Eberhardt and Andrew Markley were at a craft brewery while Dean was nearly finishing up a month off of drinking, in an effort to kickstart some healthier habits. But it wasn’t the buzz Dean realized he missed—it was the ritual, the familiarity, the camaraderie. The smell and taste of that hoppy, bubbly cold ale his buddy was enjoying. The craft beer experience.
And that’s when it hit them. To brew tea like beer, with the hops, but without sugars, additives or any fermentation.
That’s right, I repeat, this is tea, but with hops, as in the hops that ordinarily go into beer. And it’s quite compelling, I’ll even say surprisingly fantastic. I know, compelling isn’t the most flattering word for a soft drink. It’s not a compliment that I would ordinarily use to describe something meant to be swallowed, but it’s necessary here, because HopTea isn’t something that we knew existed, or that we needed.
Look, this stuff’s not an easy undertaking at first, and one of our editors equated his virgin chug to slugging bong water before eventually warming up—er, cooling down—to the concept and, in about a day’s time, the taste. It’s what it must have been like, way back when pond hockey was first invented, for people who had previously skated and, separately, pushed a broom or a mop at work. I love tea, and I love beer, and I suppose I realized that they could mix quite well together, but it’s going to take me some time to get comfortable combining these two longtime passions over ice.
In practice, whereas I started off thinking that the less hoppier selections would be far easier to imbibe, the opposite wound up to be true in some cases. Hopklark’s Really Hoppy One (there’s a convenient meter on the side of each can), a black tea with Simcoe and Citra hops, is the most amazing blend of all, a perfect match. It truly goes down smoothly, which I wasn’t expecting to be the case with any of them; but while I won’t hold any of the farts I laid during these trials against the gassier guzzlers, it was refreshing to have one that coated my innards like Pepto-Bismol, which is another favorite of mine, in case you are wondering what kind of gauge I’m working with over here.
Perhaps it is because I have drank these things for a month at this point, rendering my taste buds fully hopped, but like the product itself, my opinion of this product is now clear and bubbly. I don’t need to add any artificial sweetener—it took some time for me to completely appreciate HopTea, but I will be ordering more soon to get me through some detoxing in January that I’m suddenly dreading less and less.
Citizen Strain/Grain is an amalgamation of a bunch of us who, in addition to the hard and oftentimes depressing journalism we report for the Dig, also enjoy sampling and writing about the various beers, spirits, and cannabis products that vendors from near and far send our way. If you want us to check out your product, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.