Master Gao: Baby Jasmine Tea Lager (China: Spice/Herb/Vegetable Lager: 5.1% ABV)

Visual: Thick yellow. High carbonation. White head.

Nose: Cake sponge. Mild brown tea. Shortbread.

Body: Honey and vanilla. Bready. Soft tannins. Cake sponge. Brown tea. Nutty.

Finish: Floral. Soft sweet raspberry bits. Vanilla. Nutty. Gentle tea notes and tannins. Dry tea bags. Lemongrass and light pepper.

Conclusion: I have to admit, since I was seeing this pretty much everywhere before I tried it, I was expecting … – for snobbish reason I guess – I was expecting this to be a fairly lacklustre beer. Stupid snob me.

This is a fairly solid lager – well, let me go into that a bit more as I may be misleading slightly. At its base it is a sweet honey and vanilla thing – good thickness of mouthfeel but by itself it would be a bit simple and a tad sickly over time. Hence why I guess I shouldn’t say it is a solid lager – as a lager alone it is a bit of a let down. So, why was a surprised by this? Well the base is solid in thickness, kind of cake sponge like, and it makes a good base that the beer uses well in playing with the extra ingredient – the tea!

With this ingredient it is lightly floral, with dry brown tea notes and plenty of tannins – bringing a dry, nutty character to the sweet base, and a slight peppery spark to the finish. Together the ok lager base, and the tea influence become a satisfying beer – the slight sweetness of the base meaning that the drier tea notes don’t seem harsh. While most of the complexity comes from the tea it doesn’t push the element so hard it become overbearing – the thick sweet lager base shows through to make it evident this is still a beer.

So a lager that would have been weak without the extra element, but has become a remarkably solid drink with it – gaining just enough complexity to be worth a try.

Background: This was tried in Xi’an – I’d been hunting for a craft beer brewpub and failed to find it, so settled down in a more standard bar near the hotel. I’d seen this Tea Lager in a few 7-11s around Beijing, so decided to give it a try as one of the more common craft beers of the area. The photo came out way too dark, so I’ve done a bit of work in GIMP to make it more visible. Hope it looks ok.