Marz's Jungle Boogie
The first craft beer that really blew my mind had tea in it. It was a Bad Wolf brew that was featured at the end of a History and Hops tour at the Heurich House Museum (yes, you need to go – the man built a brewpub in his basement in 1892), and while I no longer remember the style, I know it was made with chrysanthemum flowers, elderflower essence, and gunpowder green tea. My first sip was just WOW. It was like that single moment when Einstein could visualize the fourth dimension: fleeting, yet vast and layered and infinite and full of universe miracles.
The brewer, perhaps aware that this was a bold flavor profile, asked the crowd what they thought. “It’s…different,” offered a woman near the front of the room. “I mean, I wouldn’t want a six pack of it.”
Oh, the ingratitude! You would be so lucky to have a six-pack of this beer! Also, please give me your cup, because I’ll be needing that.
This Bad Wolf beer initiated a casual quest for tea-based brews, which I’ve since realized are remarkably rare compared to the hyper dominant coffee-flavored styles. Tea is the one beverage I’d venture to say I cherish more than beer (although I don’t have a blog about tea, so there is that), and the idea that one could fuse my two favorite beverages to make some kind of superhuman, Captain-Planet-esque, the-tea-beer-is-yours beverage is something I can’t not yearn for, even if the market seems to only support one-offs.
One tea-based brew that’s a little easier to get your hands is Jungle Boogie, a pale wheat ale brewed with rooibos tea. Although it's name will make you play the "appropriate or appropriative?" game, the beer itself is a winner. It’s made by the Chicago-based Marz Brewing, which likes to throw all kinds of stuff – lemongrass, dill, wasabi root – in their beers, so experimenting with the herbal red tea from South Africa is fitting. The Jungle Boogie is an extremely pleasant beer that sets out to calm your soul with its peachy and orangey notes and gentle earthiness, and the rusty amber pour harkens a well-steeped cup.
A lot of people say they get a strong tea flavor from the Jungle Boogie, but for me the rooibos is very subtle. It’s so subtle that my inner tea lover wants to punch up that astringency, but I’ll be the first to admit that my palate leans on the overly bitter end. I won’t tell you how long I steep my tea in the morning okay it’s basically forever. This beer is known for being one of the more well-played and thoughtfully executed tea infusions, and for sure it is a welcome brew when I am hankering for a cuppa…but also beer.