Is Tea Beer Healthier Than Traditional Beer?

Does adding tea boost the health benefits of drinking beer?

Close-Up Of Beer In Glass On Table
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If you're a tea sipper who loves to drink beer, there's a trend brewing around the country that will probably make you happy. Tea beer is now a thing and it's making appearances at specialty food shows like the Fancy Food Show, as well as supermarkets. Clever craft brewers are blending different varieties of tea with beer to enhance the flavor. The result is surprisingly delicious. But can adding antioxidant-rich tea to beer make the brew more healthy?

Well, yes...sort of.

What Is Tea Beer?

Tea beer is exactly what it sounds like: beer that is infused with tea. Robert "Bert" Morton is the head brewer at Milwaukee Brewing Company, a Wisconsin-based craft brewery that makes several brews with tea. “We take the raw tea or tea blend and steep it into the beer during the brewing process,” he says.

The company's popular O-Gii beer is a wheat brew infused with chamomile and green tea. Lo-Gii is a lower alcohol version of O-Gii, and Hop Freak is a double IPA infused with organic jasmine tea. The company also creates a summer seasonal brew called Weekend at Louie's, an herbal, fruity beer that is made with organic blueberry rooibos and hibiscus tea blends. The beer has a slighter sweeter taste that comes from the tea. “We use tea instead of fruit extracts to create unique flavors,” says Morton.

Health Benefits of Beer

Now that brewers are combining tea with beer, drinkers around the country have one more reason to celebrate.

Brewers are adding a healthy ingredient to their favorite beverage, and beer is enjoying a golden moment in the media. Headlines promoting the health benefits of beer are becoming more and more popular.

The problem with those news stories is that they don't always balance all of the evidence. For example, not all of the studies compare drinking to not drinking, but rather they compare drinking one type of alcohol to another kind of alcohol.

 For example, a study published in the The American Journal of the Medical Sciences compares beer drinking to wine drinking, arguing that beer provides many of the same benefits as wine. Study authors (much like the authors of many wine and beer studies) don't say that consumers should start drinking beer to get healthier or drink to excess to gain greater health benefits. Instead, they emphasize the importance of drinking in moderation:

There is no evidence to support endorsement of one type of alcoholic beverage over another. The physician should define moderate drinking (1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men) for the patient and should review consumption patterns associated with high risk.

Another potential problem with some of the headlines is that they don't mention that some of the research is funded by the beer industry. Of course, that doesn't mean that the research findings are false, but it may mean that the take-home message promoted in the media highlights the positive and minimizes the negative.

So are there any benefits to drinking beer? Beer can be a good source of folate, niacin, magnesium, potassium, and niacin. And beer is made from healthy ingredients including whole grains like barley or wheat, brewer's yeast, malt, and hops.

 But alcohol provides seven calories per gram (three more than the four calories per gram found in carbohydrates). And you don't get the benefits of whole grain consumption when you drink the grains. In short, calories from beer (or any alcohol) don't provide the nutrition that your body needs. A cold craft brew, however, does provide satisfying flavor and a fast track to relaxation.

Can Adding Tea Improve Beer Health Benefits?

Both herbal and traditional tea provide several health benefits. While the scope of the benefits is often debated, health experts and consumers know that tea provides antioxidants that boost health.

Traditional tea provides a boost of caffeine to improve mental clarity in the short term and some herbal teas may boost relaxation.

But do those benefits transfer to the beer when the tea is added? “Yes, antioxidants and natural minerals from the tea are extracted into the beer, but in very small trace amounts," says Morton. He adds that Milwaukee Brewing Company promotes no health benefits in their tea beer "because the products are basically 99.9 percent beer."

Morton goes on to say that he doesn't really see a consumer interest in the health benefits of beer at Milwaukee Brewing. He says that when people are looking for a healthier beer they are usually looking for lower alcohol content or a beer with fewer calories. Those are beer styles that craft breweries don’t do.

He adds, however, that beer drinkers can try their own tea beer experiment at home. "There's a strong tradition in Europe of blending beer with lemonade or another drink to cut the alcohol content." He says that you can blend tea and beer at home to create a lower-alcohol beverage. "It creates a nice lunchtime summer drink," he says.

A Word From Verywell

Many of us enjoy a cold brew on a hot summer afternoon or at the end of a long day. But recommending the use of alcohol to gain health benefits can be tricky. Sure there are healthy ingredients in some popular brews, but the bottom line is that drinking beer is probably not the best way to boost your overall nutrition. Eat your whole grains to get the benefits of fiber and drink a cup of tea to enjoy the antioxidant boost. Then enjoy your favorite tea beer in moderation for the social and epicurean pleasure it provides.

Source:

Kaplan NM, Palmer BF, Denke MA, Nutritional and Health Benefits of Beer, The American Journal of the Medical Sciences, November 2000 Volume 320, Issue 5, Pages 320–326​.

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