Libations: HopTea is in a glass of its own
Available at Whole Foods Market, Basalt
When a sampler pack of HopTea appears at my doorstep on Sept. 30, I’m conflicted. When would I want to drink iced tea that tastes like craft beer? Why not just sip iced tea alone or go all-in on hop flavor with actual beer?
Then I realize: ’tis the season of Sobertober, the annual offseason month that calls for a welcome booze break.
HopTea, which launched last spring and has already earned accolades, including the grand prize at the 2018 BevNet New Beverage Showdown and a 2019 Best New Beverage Award from the Natural Foods Expo West, essentially created its own beverage category. It’s brewed in Boulder, using organic tea (green, black, white) and Pacific Northwest hops, which imbue fruity, floral and pleasantly bitter IPA aromas and flavors into a sparkling, nonalcoholic, sugar-free beverage. Even better: unlike craft beer, each 16-ounce can of the original lineup has zero calories.
I find myself reaching for HopTea in situations where I normally crave beer or blindly consume alcohol. Here’s how I got hooked:
Oct. 1, 4:30 p.m.: At my desk and wanting to hit happy hour, I crack open a can of intensely flavored HopTea, “The Really Hoppy One,” brewed with black tea plus Citra and Simcoe hops. Crisp, bitter notes and 70mg of caffeine pull me out of an afternoon slump, and I make a 5:30 p.m. CycleBar class ready to crush it.
Oct. 2, 1 p.m.: “The Hoplemousse One,” infused with organic, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, makes a great post-lunch palate cleanser. While sipping a hoppy beverage mid-workday is mind-melting, I remind myself it’s just fizzy tea.
Oct. 3: Driving up Independence Pass, I pop open “The Lemony One,” and taste bright citrus notes, paired brilliantly with views of golden foliage. Since drinking this stuff only feels illegal, I speed along toward Denver without worry.
Oct. 6: At a Sunday Funday barbecue, I pour “The Green One,” made with Imperial tea and Mosaic hops, discreetly into a pint glass. (Co-founder Dean Eberhardt suggests a tulip glass to fully capture hop aromas.) Nobody suspects I’m teetoaling, and 60mg of caffeine offers a gentle jolt.
Oct. 10: Wired at 10 p.m after working a catering gig, I crave a couch chill sesh before bed. Two cans of caffeine-free “The Calm One” seem to soothe sleeplessness with citrusy chamomile. And no headache the next morning.
Oct. 12: Showcasing zesty Lemondrop and Simcoe hops, plus 60mg caffeine, a frosty “The White Tea One” joins me on a post-hike hot-tub soak. I reflect on my October journey, and Eberhardt’s words as an occasionally abstaining beer fanatic ring true: “HopTea,” he says, “recalibrated my relationship to alcohol.”
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Inside Inmam Family Wines in the Russian River AVA.