Chai beers are nothing new, but they're also not that easy to find. For years, Yak & Yeti in Arvada was the only local brewery that made a brew with Indian spices on a regular basis, and that experience showed: The brewery-restaurant won a silver medal for its chai milk stout at the Great American Beer Festival in 2013. But other breweries have added chai beers to their seasonal schedules and tap lines over the years as well, including Avery Brewing in Boulder and Denver's Black Shirt Brewing, which at one time had a "secret tap" of its rare and delicious Chai at Dawn Sweet Stout for customers who wore their Black Shirt T-shirts, hoodies or hats into the brewery.
But chai beers are more popular than ever in the fall of 2017 and winter of 2018, with at least four packaged examples and two more on tap. Here are six chai beers to keep you spicy this winter.
Great Divide Brewing
Great Divide Brewing is careful with its line of Yeti beers. The imperial stouts are one of the brewery's flagships, so it only introduces a new one after careful consideration. In this case, adding chai spices makes perfect sense, since the legend of the yeti originated in the Himalayas, in the region that is also the birthplace of chai. "Traditional chai spices of cinnamon, green cardamom, black pepper, ginger, nutmeg and vanilla blend seamlessly with Yeti’s rich, roasted malt backbone for a spicy beast fit to tackle Everest," the brewery says about its new 9.5 percent ABV beer. It was introduced in 22-ounce bottles in late October, and should be around through December.
Chai Milk Stout Nitro
Left Hand Brewing
If you've had any of Left Hand's series of proprietary nitro beers, then you know how smooth, creamy and unusual they are. For a few years, the brewery packaged nitro beers in bottles, but cans were added last year. In 2018, Left Hand will introduce a series of seasonal nitro beers sold in four-packs of sixteen-ounce cans. They will include Black Currant Nitro, Belgian Dubbel Nitro, Wake Up Dead Nitro and Chai Milk Stout Nitro. That last one is set to debut sometime in January and is sure to stand out.
Chai Milk Stout
Spice Trade Brewing
Yak & Yeti, which has been serving great Nepalese food in an old mansion in Arvada for years, made a name for itself as a brewery in 2010 when it won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival for its Himalayan IPA, and again in 2013, when it took home silver for its Chai Milk Stout in the herb and spice category. The beer is brewed with a secret family blend of spices made in-house, and "the result is a chocolate and roast-forward stout that’s bursting with fresh chai tea aroma and flavor," the brewery says. Earlier this year, Yak & Yeti decided to package some of its beers for the first time and to rebrand the brewery side of its operation as Spice Trade Brewing. The change was made in part to help it stand out on the shelf — but also to avoid a lawsuit with Great Divide Brewing, which owns the trademark for the word "Yeti" when it comes to beer (see above). Although the first Yak & Yeti restaurant opened before Great Divide began packaging its line of Yeti Imperial Stout beers, Great Divide secured the federal trademark to the word before Yak & Yeti became a brewery. Spice Trade began canning Chai Milk Stout over the summer, and it plans to increase production in 2018 with the construction of a new brewing facility in the metro area.
Avery Brewing brought back Chai High, a robustly-spiced brown ale, in six-packs late last summer, and although its seasonality only lasts through November, you may still be able to find it on a few shelves. This time around, the brewery teamed up with Boulder-based Bhakti Chai, which produces fair trade tea made with sustainably sourced ingredients. "The chai concentrate uses fresh pressed organic ginger from Peru, which gives Chai High its spicy kick that will awaken all senses," Avery says.
Fourtrack Chai Porter
Black Shirt Brewing
Black Shirt Brewing will once again tap Fourtrack Chai Porter, a seasonal beer, at its Ugly Sweater Party on Saturday, December 16. Black Shirt has enjoyed experimenting with chai spices in beer since it opened five years ago. This one was brewed with cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, clove and ginger, all of which "delicately pair with the silky smooth body of Fourtrack Porter," a Black Shirt core beer. "These spices blend perfectly with the milk chocolate, caramel and toffee backdrop of the porter, leaving you with all the warm feelings," the brewery says.
Chai-pple Pie Oatmeal Stout
Fiction Beer Company
Donut Panic, Fiction Beer Company's annual collaboration with Glazed & Confuzed Doughnuts, returns to the brewery on Saturday, December 23, and this year's doughnut beer is Chai-pple Pie Oatmeal Stout, which was brewed with vanilla, cinnamon, chai spices and, of course, doughnuts. The base beer is a "chewy, rich and smooth oatmeal stout," the brewery says. The inspiration for the beer was the Chai-pple Doughnut from Glazed & Confuzed, which was named one of fourteen must-try doughnuts in the country by Zagat. Fiction will release the beer on tap, and there will be doughnut pairings and a food truck.
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