While I don’t mind a glass of sweet iced tea from time to time, occasionally spiked with a wee bit of vodka for weekend sipping, it’s not typically a drink I reach for on a regular basis.
But an intriguing offer is hard to resist. When American Vintage Hard Iced Tea offered NEAROF! a three-can sampler, I figured I’d give their new premixed hard ice tea a try. The perks of food blogging, right?
The Pitch: They sent along a product info sheet that includes this basic summary: “Made from tea leaves that have been cold steeped in a neutral malt base for three days, plus the addition of cane sugar and natural lemon juice, and dry hops at the end, it’s about as authentic as you can get.” They’re really pushing the natural, homemade angle on this, selling the tea on its lack of tinkering. Again, from the supplied info: “American Vintage Hard Iced Tea contains no preservatives or artificial colour and is 100 per cent derived from natural ingredients.”
The Tea: I love it when a brand provides some detail about their product. In this case, here’s another quote from their media kit, this time about the teas used: “What makes our tea so unique? The tea, of course, which is a blend of three imported teas – Ceylon (a prized black tea from Sri Lanka which serves as the backbone of the drink), Chinese green tea (brings a fresh ‘top note’ to the tea) and tea from North Carolina. Thirty teas and numerous flavour combinations later, we arrived at the perfect blend.”
The Look: The cans play on retro-chic, with cute 1950s diner-style imagery. Orange, yellow, black and silver, with a touch of green. Neat. The tea is a dark, cloudy shade of copper.
The Taste: There’s a light aroma of tea and alcohol in the nose. The flavour is hard to pin down; you can taste the beerish base, and there’s no mistaking the alcohol, which dominates. The tea element tastes like real, honest-to-goodness brewed tea, and not like iced tea made with a powdered mix. The lemon provides a hit of citrus zing, and the soft sweetness is pleasantly moderate. The choice of upfront, malty alcohol base is my one quibble; it’s a bit more distracting than I’d like. I think I would have preferred a simple neutral-spirit approach, though even that might have yielded a similar result. It’s admittedly hard to bury the alcohol taste when your other ingredients have a light, natural-tasting touch.
RATINGS AND DETAILS
Cost: $12.99 for a six-pack and $24.99 for a 12-pack at Liquor Depot in Calgary. But I got my three 355-mL cans for free as a promo.
Value for cash money: Fine. On par with a whole lot of middle-of-the-road beers.
Availability: Just recently released, so not extremely widespread just yet. But they’re made by the same folks who make Palm Bay coolers, so it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be able to find them everywhere.
Nutrition?: It’s a hard iced tea. Go easy. Moderation is key.
Beverage strength: 5% a.b.v.
The verdict: A curious alternative to coolers and beer. Not nearly as sweet as most coolers, which I find makes it more refreshing and thirst-quenching. The natural flavours are nice, though they’re not overpowering enough to drown out the strong note of booze; the cooler crowd might find that off-putting, but it’s a reasonable trade-off. I’ll likely stick with beer, but I can see the appeal.