A Healthy Beer? Millennia TEA and Big Tide Brewing May Have Just Created One

Wendy Papadopoulos and Tracy Bell with the Millennia TEA Peach Pale Ale. (Image: Marcus Rogers, Submitted)

SAINT JOHN – Though many of us would love to believe otherwise, beer is very tasty but not the most healthy beverage out there.

But a new creation by a New Brunswick tea company and a master brewer may prove that wrong.

Millennia TEA, makers of a flash-frozen tea line that best preserves its antioxidant qualities, has teamed up with Wendy Papadopoulos, master brewer at Big Tide Brewing in Saint John, to create a “tea beer.”

The Millennia TEA Peach Pale Ale will be making its debut on Saturday at the Saint John Beerfest.

The idea to partner to create the tasty tea brew came when Millennia TEA founders Tracy and Rory Bell met Papadopoulos when they hired her daughter to babysit their children.

“In conversation, we came to learn that her mother is a master brewer and is really interested in, and [known for] making really exciting and different kinds of beers,” said Tracy. “Some time went by and my partner and co-founder Rory called Wendy and said, ‘wanna play?’ ”

She did.

“When we started Big Tide, there were four breweries in New Brunswick and now there are 57,” says Papadopoulos, who was one of the first female craft brewers in Canada. “You have to continually innovate and it’s also really important to make sure that innovation is encompassing as much of our community and our environment as possible.”

RELATED: Boiling Point Talks with Big Tide Brew Master Wendy Papadopoulos

Sitting at 4.8 per cent alcohol content, Millennia TEA Peach Pale Ale is brewed with the tea taking the place of most of the hops.

“A long time ago, before hops were used predominantly, they would use locally-sourced herbs and other things to create that bitterness,” says Papadopoulos. “Tea is really neat because it has a lot of tannins, for example, which can create some astringency and really replicate the use of hops in a beer.”

With the way it was brewed, Papadopoulos says much of tea’s nutritional elements are still intact.

“We used it in the recipe the same way that you would actually make the tea,” she says. “Obviously, the benefit that you’re getting in concentrated form is diluted when you add it to beer, but those nutritional characteristics will still show up in the beer.”

After its beer festival debut, the Millennia TEA Peach Pale Ale will be on tap at Big Tide and will also be available for their growlers. It may also be on tap at some of their licensees throughout the province.

“Usually with the really special stuff like this, it goes really quickly so it’s better to just serve in-house,” says Papadopoulos. “Certainly, we will have it at other distribution outlets depending on how much we go through here and how quickly.”

Fear not, though, they will be making another batch, but this time with Millennia’s purple tea.

“The plan is we’ll do this one again, but we’ll use the purple tea next time and we’ll be able to figure out what the differences are and really understand what the flavour attributes are and how they contribute to beer by just doing two separate controlled experiments,” says Papadopoulos.

For Millennia TEA founders Tracy and Rory Bell, the collaboration means sharing the positive benefits of fresh, raw tea, with more people.

“Our purpose is to share the freshest and most nutrient-rich teas anywhere. These are real raw whole-food tea leaves that are not dried out and are not processed. We safeguard maximum antioxidants by washing and flash-freezing our teas like you do your frozen fruits and vegetables. That is our purpose,” says Tracy.

“To be able to work with someone who is at the top of her game in her field and creative and has the expertise that Wendy has, and to be able to approach and say, ‘we have really good tea … do you want to play and see what it does in your product?’ It’s so much fun for us.

Healthy beer? Come on, that’s kind of fun right?”

RELATED: Millennia Takes Tea Back to its Roots with Products Made From Fresh-Picked Leaves