For the Best St. Patrick's Day Beer, Turn to Matcha
Though it coincidentally happens to be appropriate for St. Patrick's Day, beer stained a zippy green hue, thanks to a mountain of matcha powder, has proliferated throughout Japan's tea parlors and breweries over the last decade. The curious cocktail combines the ever-popular green tea powder with beer (typically a rice lager), blended into a surprisingly delicious drink. And now, one New York tea parlor is proffering its own elevated take.
Inspired by the versions he's sampled abroad, Stefen Ramirez, owner of 29B Teahouse in the East Village, has been perfecting his own take on the almost-neon drink. "I first came across matcha beer when I was living in Kyoto in 2010," the tea expert, who was immediately intrigued by the unsung pairing, begins. "I began to randomly try different beers with different matchas." Ramirez, who also runs Tea Dealers, the city's boutique tea importer, explains it was important to "understand the relationship between taste, texture and technique in bringing the two agents together."
In Japan, matcha beer is traditionally made by whisking about two teaspoons of high-quality powder into a few ounces of hot water. That mixture forms what's called koicha, or thick matcha (the style commonly consumed during Japanese tea ceremonies). That slurry is then poured into the bottom of a tall glass before being topped off with a rice lager, such as Yebisu. As the imbiber sips the drink, he or she continues to add what's left of the beer, ultimately causing the beverage's character to change from matcha forward to beer forward.
According to Ramirez, it's important to use a high-quality powder to create "harmony between the taste of the beer and [the taste of the] tea." At 29B, he sells three tiers of premier matcha—priced at $30, $40 and $50 for just 30 grams—which he sources from a micro tea farm in Uji, near Kyoto. But for his matcha beer (see the recipe), he incorporates a fourth powder that offers a hint of bitterness, which he says complements the beer while likewise enabling the matcha's aroma to stand out without getting muddled. And instead of building his koicha with water, he blends his powder with Echigo, a 5 percent ABV Japanese rice lager.
The resulting beverage tastes crisp and refreshing, while still offering a grassy, earthy complexity. While each component retains its individual taste, the tea's umami notes serve as somewhat of a bridge, uniting the two flavors together. So, when you're looking to make green beer for St. Paddy's Day this year, toss the artificial dye aside in favor of this healthier, more delicious duo.
Kat Odell, a freelance food and travel writer, is the author of Day Drinking. Follow her on Instagram at @kat_odell.
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