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Drive-thru cider and beer festival in Tacoma comes with a twist (of tea)

Tacoma Taproom cider and beer

When Tacoma beverage superpowers align, wonderful things happen. This weekend is proof with a drive-thru cider and beer festival safe for social distancing.

Tacoma Brewing Co., Tacoma Cider Co., Witch Dog Brewing and Mad Hat Teas have mashed up their products and the result is a limited release of tea-infused beverages that’ll be available in limited supplies at the drive-in festival, held over two weekends.

Pick up the cider from 2-5 p.m. Saturday June 20 and Saturday June 27 at The Tacoma Taproom, 1116 Court E, Tacoma. 

I picked the brain of Morgan Alexander, who is Tacoma’s brewing wizard with his brewery, cidery and his newly opened seltzer company (read about the new seltzer company here) under one roof at The Tacoma Taproom, which also hosts Witch Dog Brewing.  

“I’ve been a big fan of Tobin (Ropes) and Maureen (McHugh) for a long time,” said Alexander via email. “They are awesome people doing awesome things for Tacoma – and have amazing high quality teas. Tacoma is lucky to have them.” 

“One of my things is to experiment and try combining things that could be interesting – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. With their teas, it pretty much always works. There are some teas that are subtle and can get lost so it’s a matter of pairing the right tea with the right beer or cider. There’s a lot of trial and error that happens with these events than people realize.” 

Infusing the tea into the cider and beer is pretty simple. “We use giant mesh bags – think of a large tea bag. We’ll do the infusion in as small as a five-gallon keg or one of our full-size fermenters. I’m still experimenting with the steeping process – does the tea steep better cold vs room temp, short term vs long term? Every tea has its own personality. I’m still learning.” 

So how does Alexander determine which of his ciders and beers to pair with Mad Hat teas? 

Lots of sipping. “It starts with drinking the tea and imagining what it would pair well with. When I find a flavor that works well, and others like it too though, I tend to bring it back and use it again mostly because the event happens only once a year and I miss tasting it.” 

He said something surprising that I didn’t expect about tea. Most teas can be used as flavoring agents for cider and beer. High-tannin teas are a challenge, but even the robustly flavored gunpowder teas can work in the right beverage, he said. 

“’We’ve used everything from very pale ales to very robust stouts and they all can work,” he said. 

What’s he learned after years of pairing his beverages with teas from Mad Hat? 

“The most surprising thing was that – just like hops and other natural ingredients – the teas change slightly batch to batch and year to year. The first time I did a jasmine tea IPA, it was incredible. It had super strong jasmine notes up front – which I loved. Sadly, I have not been able to duplicate it since. The theory is that jasmine harvests have not been good for a number of years. I can’t wait until we get another good harvest.” 

The tea beverage releases include Coconut Bao Zhong Pale Ale (Tacoma Brewing Co.);  Blueberry Rooibos Pale Ale (Tacoma Brewing Co.); When Skies Are Grey – Saison with Earl Grey Tea (Witch Dog Brewing) and  Hibiscus Bliss Botanical Cider (Tacoma Cider Co.).

Here’s how the drive-thru festival works. Drive up and purchase four-packs curbside at the Tacoma Taproom at 1116 Court E. on Saturday June 20 or Saturday June 27. If nobody is outside to greet you, just honk your horn and somebody will come out to help you. Four-packs are priced $19.96, plus tax.

The festival runs from 2-5 p.m. Because these are limited release, the four-packs of infused beers and ciders will be limited to two per household. Once they’re gone, they’re gone forever.  

About Mad Hat Tea: Mad Hat Tea is downtown Tacoma’s tea lounge offering a wide range of teas and tisanes available for purchase and on-site steeping. Information at madhattea.com


What: A mashup of beers and ciders from Tacoma Brewing Company and Tacoma Cider Company with Tacoma’s Mad Hat Teas.  Four-packs are available for purchase at $19.96 each.

Where is this? The Tacoma Taproom houses Tacoma Brewing Company, Tacoma Cider Company, Tacoma Seltzer Company and Witch Dog Brewing

Address: 1116 Court E., Tacoma

Info: https://www.facebook.com/tacomataproom/

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