On Sunday June 26, Moonzen Brewery will launch two tasty new beers at the Once You Go Craft offshoot ‘Go Nuts’, in TKO. Both the King’s Tea Cold IPA and Iron Goddess Tea Lager are big, refreshing beers that we enjoyed a great deal, but we want to focus on the cold IPA and give you an insider’s look into how King’s Tea Cold IPA was made, from Moonzen’s head brewer Srivas Nunez.
The King’s Tea Cold IPA
The Moonzen King's Tea Cold IPA drinks like a hazy IPA with some subtle nuances. The aromas are unmistakably apricot and peach, with a delicate tea backbone that you notice secondarily. It has moderate to low bitterness and is juicy but not too thick or heavy, with a delicious fruitiness that may tempt even those who don’t normally drink beer. This, while still retaining a crisp finish so that you may easily enjoy several. It is 6.3% ABV, which is to be respected if you are planning on a night of King’s Tea.
What's a Cold IPA?
A Cold IPA is a beer that is brewed using a bottom-fermenting lager yeast, but at higher temperatures usually suitable for top-fermenting ale yeast. It's actually a lager masquerading as an IPA.
When brewmaster Kevin Davey of Wayfinder beer pioneered the style back in 2018, he was aiming at making a particularly clean and crisp beer... a lager but with IPA characteristics that could showcase hops. The higher fermentation temperature suppresses unwanted sulfur esters that sometimes result from lager yeast, and creates a blank canvas for the rest of the beer. The term “cold” is a relative term because it refers to a fermentation temperature that’s colder than that used to ferment ale yeasts.
The Brewing of King’s Tea
We were stoked to ‘assist’ Srivas brew the King’s Tea Cold IPA last month, although most of the work is done after brew day so we don’t take any credit. We also had the privilege to try this beer from the tank at one of Moonzen’s Friday night brewery tours, where it has proved to be the most popular beer each week.
Mick Foo and Srivas Nunes on brew day
The very first Cold IPA was created by a brewer who didn’t stick to traditional methods, and instead experimented to achieve new flavour outcomes. Since then, brewers have been putting their own spin on the unofficial style and Srivas is no exception.
Srivas built the recipe for King’s Tea by considering the tea first. After choosing two versions of Ginseng Oolong tea - a brown semi-fermented version and a fresh premium version - he thought the tea’s tropical fruit flavours of apricot and peach would work well as hazy IPA. Normally these flavours would come from yeast and hops, but in this beer the tea is the primary source.
He chose the cold IPA fermentation method to provide a clean base to avoid overpowering the delicate flavours of the Ginseng Oolong tea, and the properties of the yeast also results in a crisp, dry finish. Oats were added to achieve a hazy appearance.
Care was taken to respect and replicate the traditional methods of brewing the tea, so it was rinsed, steeped or bloomed prior to adding to the brew. The brown tea was added first, in a complicated series of manoeuvres in the hop gun two days into fermentation, and allowed to ferment with the lager yeast for 24 hours.
The fresh green version of the tea was added cold-side later in the fermentation, equivalent to a dry hop, in order to maximise the fresh aroma properties. Hops were still used for bittering, as well as a small dry hop addition.
There’s a lot going on with the process and ingredients but they come together very nicely. It’s possible that this innovative, easy drinking beer might inspire a new trend of hybrid beers.
It is a brewers dream to be able to follow their sense of curiosity and experiment in this way and Srivas acknowledges the support of the brewery that allows him to do it. He is very approachable, and generous with his knowledge, and we look forward to more groundbreaking Moonzen brews from him soon.
Hong Kong gets serving tanks
In other news, Moonzen are currently setting up serving tanks at the new restaurant Pork Centric (in Tai Hang, where Second Draft used to be). Three 500 litre tanks are to be suspended from the ceiling, from which fresh beer will flow down as if from heaven.
You may have questions. How do they clean it? How do they refill it? How does that even work and when will it be ready?
Moonzen will be the first in Hong Kong to use a system unimaginatively named ‘bag-in-tank’. The beer inside the serving tank is stored in an airtight bag and the tank (not the beer directly) is pressurised to ensure the pour is perfect. No extra CO2 (used to pressurise) is mixed with the beer and it’s kept at a steady temperature - and this means it will stay fresher for longer. Once the bag is empty, it is replaced with another directly from the brewery and so no in-place cleaning of the tank is required.
Follow Pork Centric for updates on when it might be ready.
UPDATE: The pics are in!