What to Drink This Week: Twisted Tea Hard Iced Tea
Around the time that I became an Awful Teenager, I saw those mammoth Arizona Iced Tea cans start to pop up in convenience stores. They were festooned with all the greatest colors of the late 80s, unearthly pastel blues, sunshine yellows, God-only-knows-what pinks and the extremely attractive price point of less than a dollar.
They were gigantic, they were cheap, and they were more 90s than a pair of Zubaz pants. You could pick up one of these things and nurse it for a really long time, which was ideal for the finances of the 13 year-olds of my era, unacquainted as we were with the harsh reality of earning an income. Not only did Arizona instil within me the joy of bargain hunting, and possibly skew forever my impression of its eponymous State, but it became my default impression of what iced tea actually tastes like.
This was long before I ever had a server ask me whether I’d prefer sweet or regular iced tea (to which I answered “regular”, because jeez, who needs it to be sweeter, right? Yeah, she laughed at me), or knew there was such a thing as a “debate” over which is better. I suppose it would be like if a child’s only understanding of what grapes taste like is the flavor of purple popcicles, or if you could only ever associate the flavor of cheese with Kraft Dinner — that’s what Arizona meant to me when it came to iced tea: a blissful ignorance of the authentic article.
So you can imagine how I reacted when I finally did ask my Mom to try the dark brew that consistently appeared in my family fridge between June and August of every year, with wedges of lemon floating at various levels in its murk. I was totally unprepared for something that tasted like a glass of cold, especially wet (somehow), lemony black tea. It shocked me, it dried out my mouth, it made me confused and embarrassed. Were my parents lying to me? Why was this a thing people would want? Why would someone sell a thing called iced tea that wasn’t iced tea?
Not long ago, I talked about Coors Light Iced T in generally favorable terms, as a beer that took a fairly demented direction in the ever-escalating arms race of flavored beers and delivered something enjoyable. And while I’m not reversing my verdict on the product, even in the face of the pitying looks I got while returning the bottles this weekend, I’ve come to an understanding.
In the gold rush of iced tea products this year, Coors Light Iced T is the Arizona. The bright color scheme, the appealing but wholly inauthentic taste, the modest price… it all fits, right down to the basic purpose: it’s a drink for people who want to consume something like iced tea, without having to endure the flavor.
So then if Coors is the Arizona, who is the actual — y’know — iced tea? I wasn’t sure until I decided to take my bottle return money and explore the depths of my Beer Store, which is where I found this:
Twisted Tea is a Cincinnati brewer who’s been around now for over ten years, with a specific focus on providing an iced tea beverage that actually tastes like it sounds. In a landscape that has been littered with boozy bottled lemonades and margaritas, Twisted Tea appears to have held true to their core product, investing in producing a true flavor wrapped in a light-hearted brand.
And by that I mean, this stuff really tastes like iced tea.
Now granted, it tastes like sweet iced tea, which will immediately qualify it from whatever percentage of your country that thinks that’s sacrilege — but assuming that isn’t relevant to you, because instead you’re waging the battle of dry vs. wet BBQ or live in Scandinavia, then this is going to hit the mark. A few key points to consider:
- It’s sweet, but not to the point of a soft drink. Twisted Tea has been made party friendly, but isn’t going to make your teeth ache.
- That said, there is most definitely the flavor and aroma of tea in there, evident from the first time you bring it within range of your nose.
- It is the tiniest bit astringent! Your mouth will actually dry out a tiny bit as you drink this, which is kind of authentically great and also a little diabolical, because…
- …it’s very difficult to detect even a trace of alcohol in these, despite them being 5% ABV. And if you don’t think that’s a little sneaky, try flying through half a six-pack while you’re gardening and then wondering why you’re so tired all of a sudden.
Now, these aren’t going to flatten you unless you really commit yourself, not with the strength of your average beer. But for that, they carry the same pleasant side effects of a good six-pack, minus the carbonation and bitterness. And because the flavor is so familiar and approachable, these are extremely handy party-and-or-patio fodder, particularly because it’s so trustworthy.
Anyone who’s read this site for a while knows that I am very much in the bag for any product that delivers what it promises, even when whatever that is doesn’t turn out to be a great idea. Twisted Tea totally delivers, in a way that lets you as a host say to your guests, “Seriously, it tastes just liked iced tea,” and be entirely right — unlike any number of lemonades, margaritas or flavored liquors out there.
With Canada Day and/or the 4th of July around the corner, this is one that I’m completely happy to recommend. If you haven’t had a chance to try it out, Twisted Tea is definitely one to grab.
Rating: 5 teabags out of 5