Night Shift is a small brewery in Everett, Massachusetts that sets out to “fus[e] unique ingredients into an array of rich, complex flavors.” To this end they use some local ingredient in each of their brews.
Their Bee Tea Wheat Ale, for example uses green tea from Somerville’s Mem Tea Imports. So yes, this beer contains some interesting ingredients. What goes well with tea? Well, honey for one thing, and citrus for another. So the Bee Tea is made with orange peel and orange blossom honey. The beer body that backs it up is in the style of a Belgian White, which, since they are generally brewed with orange peel and coriander is amenable enough to new ingredients.
Truth be told, though, the malt and hops are really there just to provide a foundation for the green tea and honey to build on. The beer pours an orangey amber color reminiscent of a cup of green tea, with some haze visible. The head is white and fizzy and dies down quickly. Strong floral and herbal aromas hit the nose right off the bat. On the tongue, a very strong mead-like quality becomes apparent, with honey sweetness, more floral notes and some fruity flavors. These are backed up by cakey flavors from the malt. The yeast adds some wet earthy notes and some spice. The mixture of the cakey malt and spice makes one think of ginger cookies, and so there’s an overall tea time effect (but if you drink the whole 25 ounce bottle at tea time, don’t expect to get much done for the rest of the afternoon – this one comes in at 8% alcohol by volume). The tea adds a very strong drying, bitter character at the finish. It would be nice if this flavor was a little better balanced.
Overall, actually, the Bee Tea is pretty unusual and maybe a little unfocused. If you don’t like tea or mead, then you should definitely give this one a pass. The mix of flavors, though, unusual as they are, is highly intriguing, and when the bottle was empty I found myself wanting more.