Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Floral squared: Two local hibiscus beers

Posted By on 07.17.13 at 02:06 PM

Hibiscus and more hibiscus
Several months ago—probably in the winter, now that I think about it—I was mailed a bottle of Huitzi, Five Rabbit's "midwinter" beer brewed with hibiscus, ginger, chamomile, and honey. I'd tried it at a beer festival and liked it, but for some reason I put off opening the bottle (or maybe I just didn't get around to it, which is more likely). Then I came across Rosa, a summer beer from Revolution Brewing—another local brew, also made with hibiscus. What are the odds?

The logical thing to do, of course, was taste them side by side. They're different in style, at least on paper: Huitzi, inspired by agua de jamaica (a Mexican drink that's essentially iced hibiscus tea, often infused with allspice, ginger, and lime), is a Belgian-style strong golden ale that weighs in at 9 percent ABV. Revolution describes Rosa, which is only 5.8 percent alcohol, as "a highly drinkable ale steeped with hibiscus flowers and a touch of orange peel for a natural tartness and slight pink hue."

The two beers taste surprisingly similar, at least at first. There's very little hops or malt noticeable in either, and both are floral and fruity—with, of course, a noticeable hibiscus flavor. The Huitzi is a touch sweeter, fruitier, and more carbonated (though neither is overly sweet); it's also the more complex of the two, with subtle lemon and yeast flavors and a bit of spiciness developing over time. The ginger and chamomile aren't flavors I'd be able to pick out of it, though I think the ginger comes through in the spiciness. The Rosa is more floral, slightly tart, and straightforwardly light and refreshing. I'd drink either of them in this weather, but the Rosa is slightly more appropriate as a hot-weather beer, mostly because drinking high-alcohol beer when it's 90 degrees out can be a little dangerous, but also because the Huitzi becomes a little syrupy-tasting when it warms up.

Julia Thiel writes about booze every Wednesday.

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