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U.S. Tea Industry Growth Makes Specialty Tea Accessible to Consumers

By Greg Gonzales

Tea markets are growing, and growth won’t be slowing down any time soon, thanks to a multi-generational boost. The U.S. tea market has grown 15 times its size since 2009 and was worth $10.8 billion in 2014, according to the Tea Association of the USA’s “2014 State of the Industry” report. Loose-leaf tea in particular has gained popularity as a specialty product, hydration alternative and health product, while ready-to-drink tea has seen similar success on supermarket shelves. The report also said that tea is the second-most consumed beverage in the world, after water.

The same Tea Association of the USA report, compiled by Tea Association President Peter Goggi, cited Millennials as the major demographic driving market growth. “Several aspects of the market are driving Millennial interest in tea,” Goggi said. “The access to tea has been easier and much more common for them; they’ve grown up drinking tea, as preteens, and they also gravitate toward products that appeal to them. Tea fits in because Millennials want to be engaged with the products they buy — where it comes from, how it’s made, its naturalness — tea fits into this beautifully because it comes from different countries and it’s an agricultural product, so Millennials can get involved.”

He added that Baby Boomers have gotten involved in the conversation, too, and are increasingly joining the public discourse with Millennials.
Topics to share include the teas’ origins, and how different processing yields different kinds of tea. Pu-erh tea, for example, is aged and pressed into cakes, making an extremely dark brew that exclusively contains the cholesterol-lowering compound, lovastatin. Specialty teas use the best leaves, while low-grade teas consist of fannings, or what amounts to dust left over from processing high-grade leaves. Farms throughout the world employ their own growing techniques, which also yields a different product. Enthusiasts can learn nearly everything about the origins of a specialty tea, and share their preferences through endless social networks, online and offline.

Entrepreneurs and tea chains across the globe are taking notice of this trend. While large tea exporters like Zhejiang Tea Group have expanded more into U.S. markets, small tea businesses in North America are beginning to flourish as they adapt to the growth. “With everyone on social media to distribute content for social reward, tea is the budding connoisseur’s dream,” said Stuart Lown, National Sales Manager of Takeya USA. “There’s so much to learn about tea, fresh fruit and herbs — so much to learn about healthy hydration, to share with friends and family.”

Takeya specializes in tea infusers and pitchers that simplify home brewing and improve the flavor of the tea. One of their products, the fruit infuser, allows consumers to add new flavors outside the tea itself. By providing an easy method for making homemade iced tea, Lown said, Takeya makes quality tea more accessible to the everyday consumer.

“We specialize in bringing loose-leaf tea home, allowing consumers to quickly and easily brew premium teas and to chill those quickly, which allows people to get the health benefits from the tea,” said Lown. “When you brew the tea with a Takeya system, which is an airtight chamber, you’re getting the best taste and nutrient content.”

The airtight Takeya system ensures precious nutrients and flavors don’t evaporate with some of the water before the tea cools — and those nutrients are key to tea’s growth. “Over the last decade, several thousand articles have been written about the healthfulness and important phytochemicals and antioxidants that improve human health,” Goggi said, adding that the public has grown increasingly aware of these studies.
Cleansing, lower cholesterol, heart function and mental acuity are some of the natural benefits of tea drinking. Flavonoids, a compound produced by tea plants, are thought to have antioxidant properties and help neutralize free radicals. Tea also has no sodium, no fat, no carbonation and is sugar-free. It’s also calorie-free and provides hydration — and some studies have shown that tea drinking improves cardiovascular health. A Harvard study found that individuals drinking one or more cups of black tea per day have a 44 percent reduced risk for heart attack. A U.S. Department of Agriculture study showed that a low-fat diet combined with five cups of tea per day reduced LDL cholesterol by 11 percent, after three weeks. Also shown in the studies is that drinking black tea reduces blood pressure and helps blood flow after a high-fat meal, and tea also carries with it a reduced risk for rectal cancer, colon cancer and skin cancer.

Along with health benefits, tea naturally boosts cognition. While antioxidants in tea protect brain cells from free radicals, another compound found in tea, L-theanine, along with caffeine, is known to enhance attention and complex problem solving.

Still, not all tea drinkers are seeking a mental boost, and not all of them are interested in learning about tea beyond the basics. “Seventy-eight percent of consumers drink tea for the taste, and 50 percent drink it for the function,” said Patrick Tannous, President and Co-Founder of Tiesta Tea. “We take the basic functionality of the tea and educate the consumer. We aim to make tea accessible, understandable and affordable.”

Tiesta Tea’s approach is to educate the consumer about how to make the best tea, rather than about the tea’s journey from the farm to cup. On the company website, the owners drive this point home: “Does it really matter to you which farm in China produces the best green tea in February or how to correctly pronounce rooibos? (it’s ROY-bos, if you care.) That’s our job to do, not yours. We believe what matters is what your tea tastes like and what’s it’s going to do for you. We take care of the nitty-gritty details.”

Ready-to-drink tea also has made tea more available and visible to consumers. Some markets dedicate an entire shelf section to kombucha alone, increasing tea’s visibility, while other varieties of tea can be found all over stores, rather than in one single beverage area. Goggi wrote in his 2014 report that ready-to-drink tea is expected to continue rising in popularity, with annual dollar increases from 12 to 15 percent.
There are a lot of factors driving tea growth, from public knowledge of specialty tea to Starbucks buying the Teavana chain. As Millennials age, their interest in tea is expected to continue and get passed down to the next generation. This growth will keep the market growing for years to come. After all, tea is inexpensive, simple and accessible.

“It’s something anyone can do, and it’s something all people can enjoy,” said Lown. “Tea is not exclusive to a certain class; it’s something everyone can enjoy, no matter your diet, your religion, your age or your income.”

Anheuser-Busch Acquires Another Craft Brewery

Anheuser-Busch has announced a deal in which it will acquire Colorado-based Breckenridge Brewery. With this agreement, Breckenridge Brewery is the seventh craft brewery to join The High End, Anheuser-Busch’s business unit of craft and import brands.

“We’re excited about the partnership and have been encouraged to continue on our path and become more innovative moving forward,” said Todd Usry, President of Breckenridge Brewery. “I’m a believer in what The High End is focused on accomplishing, and we are flattered that our team was chosen to help guide that journey. We’re looking forward to utilizing resources like decades of research and brewing expertise as we continue to create new beers.”

Available in 35 states, Breckenridge Brewery will sell approximately 70,000 barrels of beer in 2015. The new brewery and Farm House restaurant in Littleton have positioned the brewery for future growth. The brewery will continue to make its unique portfolio of beers – ranging from its Vanilla Porter, to Agave Wheat, to its core brands, seasonal specialties and barrel-aged beers.

“Breckenridge Brewery has a long history of innovation and they continue to brew new and exciting beers, from their specialty brews like the Mountain Series that celebrates the brewery’s origin as a ski town brewpub, to their planned nitro can series,” said Andy Goeler, CEO, Craft, The High End. “They are innovative and have built an amazing business that’s enabled them to get their great beers to fans across the country. We look forward to even more growth together.”

Breckenridge Brewery will join Goose Island Beer Company, Blue Point Beer Company, 10 Barrel Brewing, Elysian Brewing Company, Golden Road Brewing and Four Peaks Brewing Company as part of The High End’s craft beer portfolio.

The partnership includes the company’s new production brewery and Farm House restaurant in Littleton, and original brewpub and current innovation center in the mountain town of Breckenridge.

The current management group, Breckenridge-Wynkoop, will continue to own and operate its remaining businesses including: Ale House at Amato’s in DenverBreckenridge Ale House in Grand JunctionBreckenridge Colorado Craft in Denver; The Cherry Cricket in Denver; Mainline in Fort Collins; Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. in Colorado Springs; and Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver.

Anheuser-Busch’s partnership with Breckenridge Brewery is expected to close in the first quarter of 2016, subject to customary closing conditions. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Mucho Gazpacho from Bodega Barcelona

Bodega Barcelona PFMucho Gazpacho available in three recipes: Bravo Tomato, Beets Gazpacho and Green Gazpacho.

Mucho Gazpacho is a delicious, refreshing and nourishing vegetable beverage made of crushed raw vegetables and savory ingredients supplied by local farmers in southeast Spain. All ingredients are natural, with no preservatives, non GMO and gluten free. A little 8-ounce bottle contains two full servings of vegetables.

For more information, call Bodega Barcelona LLC at 844.666.3503 or email hola@muchogazpacho.com.

Mead with Love

 

By Richard Thompson

 

Breweries like Sky River Meadery and Moonlight Meadery are offering new delicious flavors – such as raspberry, blackberry, and even strawberry rhubarb – along with traditional honeyed staples in their dry, sweet and semi-sweet mead lines.

“It’s coming back as a beverage of choice,” says Michael Fairbrother, Founder and Head Mead Maker at Moonlight Meadery and President of American Mead Maker Association.

Moonlight Meadery, which opened in 2010 and is based in Londonderry, New Hampshire, offers a line of 70 different products and has seen interest in mead explode over the last year. “Production in the first two years was about 24,000 bottles (2000 cases), but we have done close to seven times as much in the last year alone,” says Fairbrother.

Kurt’s ApplePie, the meadery’s top seller, won the gold metal at the 2013 Mazer Cup International and is made with Sunny Crest Farm apple cider with Madagascar-bourbon vanilla and Vietnamese cinnamon. Its sweetness is balanced by the tartness from the added cinnamon, and the vanilla lightens it up, says Fairbrother.

Desire, a sweet mead made with blueberries, black cherries and blackcurrants, is the company’s flagship mead and won first place in the New England Regional Homebrew Competition back in 2009. Fling is made with strawberry rhubarb and orange blossom honey and has a light tartness that balances the sweet with strawberry notes. “I suggest to customers to try it with a goat cheese salad,” says Fairbrother.

Coffee in Bed, a dessert-style mead with a rich, robust honey-note, was another award winner at the International Mazer Competition that goes well with dark chocolates, tiramisu and German Chocolate cake.

Sky River Meadery, a Washington-based meadery found in the Woodinville Winery District, has been open since 1997 and specializes in traditional meads and honey wines. “We only make mead,” says Denice Ingalls, President and Wine Maker at Sky River, “We keep it simple and approachable.”

SOLAS, the meadery’s flagship mead, is a tribute to Old World meads, says Ingalls. Using saturated, smokey whiskey barrels from Dry Fly[TM] Distillery, SOLAS is a very sweet mead that combines honey and wheat whiskey flavors and is definitely an indulgence that should be sipped.

The company’s 10 different meads – with nine currently available – range from a traditional Brochet mead that has a darker, richer quality – due to the honey being caramelized before fermentation – to the Ginger mead that has a sassy ginger note with a spicy finish. “Our Rose mead is the ‘boudoir’ wine, luscious and indulgent, and pairs beautifully with meals where there are a lot of pistachios, like Persian and Middle Eastern foods,” says Ingalls.

 

 

White Coffee’s BioCup Honored at 2015 World Beverage Innovation Awards

 White Coffee’s packaging innovation, BioCup®, was honored last month as a finalist in the 2015 World Beverage Innovation Awards for the Best Environmental Sustainability Initiative category. BioCup, one of the leading entries, captured the ecological niche for wholly biodegradable pods. The award ceremony was held on Wednesday, November 11 at BrauBeviale, one of the largest trade shows for the global beverage industry, held in Nuremberg,Germany.

The awards feature 26 categories including “Best Juice” to “Best Functional Drink,” to “Best New Beverage Concept”; plus categories for brands; ingredients; packaging; design; manufacturing and processing; sustainability; and marketing and communications. BioCup was selected from 360 entries representing 40 countries.

With increased growth in single serve coffee offerings, comes increased responsibility for waste disposal. The revolutionary compostable and biodegradable single serve packaging offers 90 percent degradation after six months. “We are very proud to be honored by the international beverage community for BioCup,” says Jonathan White, Executive Vice President for White Coffee Corporation. “White Coffee is committed to be a leader in the industry in minimizing the effect of its activities on the environment.”

White Coffee presented the line of BioCup packaged coffees under the White Coffee brand. White Coffee’s Bio-degradable and Compostable Organic Single Serve Coffee BioCup is available in 11 flavors: Colombian, Breakfast Blend, French Roast, Full City Roast, Mexican High Grown, Peruvian, Rainforest Blend, Hazelnut, French Vanilla, Sea Salt Caramel and Chocolate Morsel.

White Coffee’s BioCup is available in retail outlets nationwide and offered in 10-count and 80-count boxes. The cups are 2.0 compatible, for use with the Keurig® system and similar coffeemakers.

American Born Moonshine Celebrates Second Anniversary

American Born Moonshine celebrated its two-year anniversary with a nod to the past and a push to the future. Founded in 2013 by Patrick Dillingham and Sean Koffel as the lead product of Windy Hill Spirits, American Born Moonshine has expanded its reach to 24 states, while also staking its claim as the fastest growing moonshine brand in the United States, doubling its sales volume over the past year.

“2015 has been an incredible growth year for American Born Moonshine,” says Co-founder Sean Koffel. “We are now available in 25 states across the nation and we have expanded our reach with national marketing campaigns in music and racing as well as local bartender campaigns to help give people the best moonshine experience. We are looking forward to a great rest of the year with more growth on the way for 2016.”

In the past year, Windy Hill Spirits’ first brand has achieved overwhelming success. American Born Moonshine is identified by many as the most authentic and best tasting in the category and is poised to be the category leader. Earlier this year, Windy Hill Spirits kicked off a number of partnerships with large national retail and grocery chains including Kroger’s, Walmart, Safeway, and Albertson’s and expects this to be a significant area of future growth for the brand. In addition, American Born Moonshine has grown geographically and organically over the past 12 months, doubling sales volume and depletions in the same time frame.

“We have seen tremendous positive feedback on American Born Moonshine since we rolled this out in Florida earlier this year,” said Eric G. Pfeil, Vice President of Sales, Premier Beverage Company. “The volume has surpassed our initial expectations and projections. Additionally, the folks from ABM have been very responsive with the market needs, and have provided excellent resources. We are looking forward to continued success with the brand and with Windy Hill Spirits as a whole.”

To celebrate its incredible growth over the past two years, American Born Moonshine will be unveiling a new program called #sharetheshine, which will honor the bartenders, retailers and bootleggers who serve the company’s moonshine this fall and winter. American Born Moonshine will be utilizing the hashtag #sharetheshine to track pictures of bartenders serving these participants and will select the most creative image as a winner every two weeks. The winner will be contacted and will receive an American Born Moonshine crate filled with the best “ABM Moonshine Bootlegger gear.” To participate, people just need to like or follow @AmericanBornMoonshine on Instagram and post their most creative image embodying #sharetheshine. Participants can tag a friend or two they’d like to share the shine with and then hashtag #sharetheshine. Winners will be chosen randomly.

There are three different types of American Born Moonshine – Original, Apple Pie and Dixie:

  • American Born Moonshine Original “White Lighting” is a 103-proof, unaged corn whiskey made from a blend of corn, sugar and water. The recipe is high in corn content yet still embraces the sugar to allow for a smooth finish and remarkable mixability.
  • American Born Moonshine Apple Pie is 83 proof made from a 100 percent corn base with natural apple and cinnamon flavors.
  • American Born Moonshine Dixie is an 83-proof sweet tea-flavored moonshine. Dixie is made from a corn base combined with natural tea flavors.

Patent-Pending Packaging Protects Coffee Flavor

 

For the first time in the history of coffee, there’s a packaging that will preserve the cold-brewed beverage without refrigeration. Coffee concentrate packaged in a bag-on-valve system is shelf-stable for three years or more and comes out of the can with the same taste and aroma it had when it was freshly brewed, according to BOV Solutions Founder and CEO Paul Hertensen.

“The packaging is specifically designed for today’s cold coffee drinks,” he said. “It looks like an aerosol can, but it’s not aerosol. This is a pure, natural coffee product with nothing added. There are no preservatives. No refrigeration is required.”

BOV Solutions has partnered with the world’s largest coffee-brewing company, which is making the coffee concentrates that are packaged inside the BOV Solutions’ bag-on-valve cans. The coffee concentrate itself is enclosed inside a bag so that it’s in an oxygen-free environment and is never touched by propellants. Then the can is pressurized outside the bag, and that pressure provides the force that propels the coffee concentrate out of the can when the valve is opened. The can is made from 100 percent fully recyclable aluminum, so there’s no landfill impact, and shelf-stability tests have shown no change in the coffee after three years without refrigeration. “The flavor is still there; the aromas, still there. It’s exactly the way it was when it was put into the can,” Hertensen said.

Flavor stays the same because the sealed bag protects the coffee from the oxidation that changes the flavor of coffee as it sits in an open container. “Our coffee tastes the same from the first cup to the last cup with no changes whatsoever,” Hertensen said.

All the consumer has to do to prepare the beverage is to dispense a quarter of an ounce of the coffee concentrate into hot or cold water. “You absolutely need no equipment whatsoever. All you need is hot water or cold water or milk, whatever you use to make your coffee drink,” Hertensen said. The coffee concentrate can also be used as a flavoring ingredient for foods like ice creams or baked goods. “It has no bitterness,” Hertensen added. “All the bitterness has been removed.”

The same technology can also be used to package tea concentrates. At-home preparation for those also requires just the dispensing of a quarter of an ounce of the concentrate into a glass of ice water or a cup of hot water. “Tea is also a cold-brewed process,” Hertensen said. “We get the pure flavor of the tea.”

The technology has patents pending around the world, Hertensen says. “What we actually patented was the ability to put a coffee or tea concentrate into a bag on valve. We also patented putting the bag-on-valve into a dispensing system.”

“This is the most exciting product I’ve ever had my fingers on by far,” he added. “People are dying for us to get it onto the market.”

BOV Solutions’ profits from sales of the coffee and tea packaging will be donated to a new veteran’s organization that’s providing an outdoor recreational retreat area for disabled veterans and first responders. “It’s a good cause. There are organizations helping these veterans get mobile, but there’s no place they can go to enjoy outdoor sports that has equipment modified for them,” Hertensen said. “It’ll be totally free of charge to the veterans. This is drastically needed for those who serve and protect us and have been disabled doing so. It’s a marvelous thing because it will help them feel whole again.”

The recreational facility will also be available to firefighters, police officers and other first responders who have become disabled through the performance of their duty as public servants, Hertensen said. “It’s a great organization.”

 

Explore Sonoma County on a California Wines Road Trip

The Wine Institute is encouraging California tourists to explore the Wine Country by turning the spotlight on a different region each month, highlighting where to sip, eat, drink and play. This month, explore a gourmet journey to Sonoma County, the largest producer of Pinot Noir in California.

Home to 500-plus wineries, a renowned cheese trail, farm and vineyard dinners, artsy beach and wine country towns and 55 miles of ruggedly beautiful coastline, Sonoma County is one of the most well-known wine regions in California, but there’s always something new to explore. Winemakers, inspired by the region’s incredible abundance and diversity of varietals, are creating some of the state’s most celebrated wines.

SIP: Sonoma County is most known for its Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, but it grows many of California’s 100-plus grape varieties. Explore the region’s 500-plus wineries in 18 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) with this interactive map of Sonoma County wineries. Or visit the discovercaliforniawines.com interactive map to search wineries by their many amenities such as gardens, art displays, concerts, tours and picnic areas. For those travelers looking for themed tasting routes, from dog-friendly wineries to specific wine varietals, they can check out www.sonomawine.com/visit-our-wineries/suggested-tasting-routes.

STAY: Choose from luxury and full-service resorts, B&Bs tucked among the vines, charming seaside lodges, cabins and campgrounds, trendy downtown hotels or small inns on vineyard hillsides. Many prefer to pamper themselves at one of the area’s 40-plus spas and wellness centers, some of which offer access to natural thermal springs. Popular towns to stay in range from Bodega Bay on the Coast and charming wine country towns such as Sonoma, HealdsburgSebastopol or Petaluma. Explore all the options at Sonoma County Tourism.

PLAY: Nov. 21-22 the Holiday in Carneros kicks off the holiday season with wineries opening their doors for wine and food pairings, barrel and new release tastings and more.  After the holidays, make merry in the new year with the annual Winter WINEland Jan. 16-17, featuring tours, tastings of limited production wines and more at 140 wineries.  Check in regularly for more wine events atwww.discovercaliforniawines.com/events.

More fun things to do: Hike among the giant trees at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, along the wild coast of Bodega Head in Sonoma Coast State Park, with a docent at Jack London State Historic Park or on one’s own at Sonoma State Historic Park—site of the northernmost Franciscan Mission in California.  Pair local wines with wildlife at Safari West, which features private safaris from Winos and Rhinos to Cheetahs and Chardonnay.  Sip, taste, shop and stroll along historic wine town squares such as Sonoma Plaza and Healdsburg Plaza.

MAKE: Guests can make their own version of the state’s signature beverage at one of many blending classes at area wineries, some of which offer cooking classes or wine and food pairing sessions. With more artists than any other county in the Golden State (27,000-plus), the region is known for its relaxed, freethinking spirit and art galleries. Get inspired and make art at occasional classes hosted by the Sebastopol Center for the Arts and Petaluma Arts Center.

GROW: Sonoma County has a variety of micro-climates from coastal ranges perfect for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to warmer inland areas where Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel thrive. Reflecting the community’s commitment to green practices, Sonoma County Winegrowers aim to have 100 percent sustainable vineyards by 2019.  In addition, more than 100 organic farms and dozens of farmer’s markets are held, giving travelers the chance to select fresh ingredients for a snack or meal.

EAT: Besides grapes, Sonoma County produces a variety of specialty foods from seafood, meats and artisan cheese to honey, lavender, olives, pumpkins and olive oils, most of which can be tasted at various gourmet shops or farms. The region’s more than 500 restaurants range from Michelin- and Zagat-rated stars to casual eateries like gastropubs. Savor fresh local oysters at Bodega Bay Oyster Company or taste along the Sonoma-Marin Cheese Trail, where many creameries are open to the public (call ahead to make sure).

For another kind of comfort food, save some space for Mom’s Apple Pies in Sebastopol, which bakes fresh daily from local Gravenstein apples and other local fruit. To get hands on, sign up for an agri-tourism or farm trail experience. Each September the region’s farms open their doors during Weekend along the Farm Trails, where visitors can meet the artisan producers, enjoy tastes, tours and demonstrations, take hayrides and experience life behind the barnyard gates.

Visit discovercaliforniawines.com for information on wine regions, wines and wineries throughout the Golden State and for planning a trip to California wine country. California is the number one U.S. state for wine and food tourism with dozens of distinct wine regions, 136 American Viticultural Areas and 4,400 wineries that produce 90 percent of U.S. wine. Established in 1934, Wine Institute is the public policy association of nearly 1,000 California wineries.

Sam Adams Releases Small-Batch Extra-Aged Utopias Beer

The brewers at Samuel Adams have announced the limited release of highly-coveted Samuel Adams Utopias, a beer unlike any other. Only the ninth batch brewed since the first release in 2002, this year’s Utopias, like previous vintages, was brewed in small batches using traditional methods, blended with previous vintages going as far back as 1992, then finished in the Barrel Room at the Samuel Adams Boston Brewery.

“Sam Adams Utopias is the lunatic fringe of extreme beer. The recipe stretches the limits of the brewing process, flavor complexity, and as a by-product, alcohol content. While barrel aging is now a mainstay of a thriving craft beer community, we have been experimenting with barrel aging for nearly 25 years and this year’s batch is made from a library of barrels, some of which go as far back as 1992. This is an other-worldly beer that’s just as radical today as it was in 1992 and I am excited for drinkers to sip and savor it,” said Founder and Brewer Jim Koch.

About Samuel Adams Utopias

For beer fanatics, Samuel Adams Utopias has become one of the most sought-after beers on earth. Meant to be savored like a fine cognac or port, Utopias is a rich, uncarbonated extreme beer known for its extraordinary flavor profile. Utopias has aromas of wood, toffee, cocoa, raisin and maple, which hint at its distinctive flavors, which range from hints of molasses, earthy wood, dates, and light smoke to nuts and toffee.

With each new batch of Utopias, the brewers at Sam Adams push for a complex flavor profile, and during this process have created brews with alcohol levels reaching over 30 percent ABV; this year’s beer is 28 percent ABV and is best enjoyed as a two ounce pour in a snifter glass at room temperature. While some of the barrels have reached over 30 percent alcohol, the brewers blend down because the goal is to craft complex flavors, not an extreme alcohol percentage.

About the Barrel-Aging Process

For the 2015 Utopias, the Sam Adams brewers used a variety of malts for the brewing process and during fermentation used several strains of yeast, including one traditionally reserved for champagne. The beer was then blended with Utopias vintages from previous years including some that have been aging for more than 20 years in the Barrel Room. Aging the beer over a longer period of time accentuates the beer’s distinct vanilla notes and creates aromas of ginger and cinnamon. Some of this aged beer is over 20 years old, old enough to drink itself.

About the Brewing Process

Utopias is brewed using traditional methods. The brewers begin with a blend of two-row Caramel and Munich malts that imparts a rich, deep amber color. Noble hops – Hallertau Mittelfrueh, Spalt Spalter and Tettnang Tettnanger – are also added to lend complexity and balance. During fermentation, several yeast strains are used, including one normally reserved for champagne which the brewers call a “ninja yeast.” This fresh beer is then blended with a variety of different barrel-aged beers and “finished” in a variety of barrels to impart additional complexity and flavor.

About the Finishing Barrel Process

This release of Samuel Adams Utopias also uses a blend of beer finished in a variety of barrels. “Finishing” is a creative way for the brewers to impart additional flavor from a variety of barrels before the beer is bottled. This final step of finishing the beer lasts several months before the beer is bottled and imparts flavors ranging from fruit like cherry and raisin to chocolate, leather and oak. The multi-step and lengthy process results in flavors reminiscent of a rich vintage Port, fine Cognac, or aged Sherry, while feeling surprisingly light on the palate.

New this year, the brewers used White Carcavelos wine barrels to finish the beer, in addition to barrels that once housed cognac, Armagnac, ruby port, sweet Madeira, and Buffalo Trace Bourbon. White Carcavelos wine barrels help to amplify the dried fruit and oak flavors of this year’s Utopias. Carcavelos wines are blended and fortified like a port, are off dry and topaz colored with nutty aromas and flavors. Carcavelos comes from a small region of Portugal and the barrels are very rare, which made the Sam Adams brewers all the more excited to experiment with them as finishing barrels.

Where to find Utopias:

The first batch of Utopias bottles can be found in the hands of Samuel Adams employees. Since Utopias was first released, each bottle number corresponds with when each employee was hired, making Founder and Brewer Jim Koch number 1 and Brewer Dean Gianocostas number 2. For all other beer lovers, fewer than approximately 10,000 bottles of Samuel Adams Utopias can be found at select specialty beer and liquor stores for a suggested retail price of $199 per bottle. Price varies by market.

 

Affinity Beverage Group, Inc. Announces the Acquisition of Village Tea Company

Affinity Beverage Group, Inc., a publicly traded company, announced that it has acquired a majority interest in Village Tea Company Distribution, Inc. Village Tea, headquartered in National Harbor, Maryland, is the owner of the Village Tea Company brand of premium loose leaf teas and tea accessories. Village Tea Company sources high-quality, unique teas that are blended to create distinct flavor combinations which are packaged in a variety of creative and earth-friendly ways for wholesale and retail sales.  The brand has been sold in several major retailers in North America including Vitamin Shoppe®, Whole Foods® Markets, Winners®, HomeSense®, Akins/Chamberlin® Natural Foods Markets and many other independent specialty and grocery store retailers.  Village Tea Company products are also available through e-commerce retailers such as Amazon, the company’s own website, www.villageteaco.com and other online retailers. Village Tea Company also recently acquired distribution rights for Pura Organic Agave sweeteners, which will be available at select U.S. retailers in the coming weeks.

Affinity CEO Janon Costley will remain in his role as CEO of Village Tea Company Distribution, Inc., while Affinity advisory board member and Village Tea Company founder, Martin Ekechukwu will continue in his role as Brand Manager and President.  “Acquiring Village Tea Company was at the forefront of our thought process when we decided to build a health and wellness lifestyle brand building and acquisition platform with Affinity Beverage Group. We have learned some important lessons over the past couple of years while trying to find the proper platform to grow Village Tea Company, so it was extremely important to us that we put the company into the best situation that would allow us to have full control of our strategic growth strategy that will enable us to maximize the tremendous potential of the brand and its distribution platform.  We feel that Village Tea Company is poised for exponential growth over the course of the next several years, and Affinity gives us the best opportunity to fulfill those expectations,” Costley said.

With the increased emphasis on health and wellness in the U.S. tea market, the $6 billion global tea industry has seen exponential growth over the past five years with the ever-increasing popularity of gourmet and boutique tea brands and retail outlets accounting for nearly 35 percent of the global tea market, the Village Tea Company is properly positioned for exponential growth over the course of the next several years.  Over the past year, Village Tea Company has created a platform that will enable it to increase its sales footprint in existing channels of distribution in health and wellness specialty and grocery stores and e-commerce but also to increase its presence in mainstream grocery, clubs, mass and drug store chains as well as into hospitality, food service and restaurants.

Village Tea Company is no longer just about tea, as it is also using its unique positioning in the marketplace to create a distribution platform to introduce other complementary health and wellness lifestyle brands and products.  As it looks toward the future, the company will continue to seek opportunities to leverage its product development team and distribution experience as well as the resources of its trade partners to explore various brand extension opportunities into new categories such as tea accessories, K-cups, various tea based products, retail, co-branded tea infused nutritional beverages and strategic distribution opportunities.

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