Earlier this summer, while at a charity event, I came across a blended concoction called Owl’s Brew Radler, a combination of beer and tea. It was a particularly scorching hot day, and I found each sample refreshing. It was sweet without being sugary, herbaceous with floral notes, and crushable with its low ABV (just 3.8%). In the days and weeks after the event, I started to see their cans on liquor store shelves and decided to dig deeper to find out more about this sessionable shandy. I quickly found out that Owl’s Brew wasn’t all about beer and tea versions of a radler (in Germany a radler is a 50:50 combo of beer and sparkling lemonade), but that the company’s mark on the beverage industry started with cocktail mixers.
Created by Jennie Ripps (founder/CEO) and Maria Littlefield (partner/president), Owl’s Brew is the first tea-based cocktail mixer on the market. Both self-professed tea lovers and cocktail culture fans, Ripps and Littlefield wanted to develop a mixer that was all-natural, and versatile to multiple liquors, with some flavors that mesh well with beer, wine, or Champagne. Each fresh brewed bottle is homemade in small batches using quality ingredients like whole tea leaves, herbs and spices, fruit, and sweetened with agave instead of artificial sweeteners or syrups, making it a low sugar “brew.”
Currently there are eight flavors of Owl’s Brew available in 8, 16, or 32-ounce bottles, which make four cocktails per eight ounces. Some flavors include The Classic (English breakfast tea, lemon, lime, lemon peel), Pink & Black (Darjeeling hibiscus tea, strawberry, lemon), Coco-Lada (black tea, chai spices, coconut pieces, pineapple), White and Vine (white tea, pomegranate, lemon peel, watermelon), and Wicked Green (green tea, lemon-lime, habanero).
If mixing drinks isn’t your forte, fear not, Owl’s Brew is foolproof; two parts mix, one part booze. Also listed on the bottles are the perfect liquors to use with each flavor, and a craftier recipe if you’d like to channel your inner mixologist.
For beer fans, or those looking for something less hoppy, Owl’s Brew Radlers come in three drinkable varieties; The Blondie (wheat beer, English breakfast tea, lemon and lime juices, lemon peel), Wicked Watermelon (wheat beer, white tea, watermelon and pomegranate juices), and That’s My Jam (amber ale, Darjeeling hibiscus tea, strawberry and lemon juices).
We wanted to find out a little more about Owl’s Brew, and founder, Jennie Ripps, so we gave them a ring for a quick Q&A sesh:
Founder Jennie Ripps and President Maria Littlefield
Tell us about that light bulb moment when you thought of creating what’s seemingly a foolproof drink mixer?
Before Maria and I created the brand, we were fresh-brewing tea on site at events to use with cocktails as the main ingredient. We’d transport tealeaves in our suitcases, which was always fun (for the TSA!). Guests enjoyed the cocktails so much they would then ask us where they could buy our teas. That’s when we knew we had to bottle it, and Owl’s Brew was born.
How do you go about selecting ingredients for each Owl’s Brew cocktail mixer?
Each mixer was designed to pair not just with liquor, but wine and beer as well, so we selected ingredients that we knew would play well with many different flavor profiles. For instance, hibiscus is tart and bright and Chai has sweet and spicy notes. Both are flavors that have versatility and the ability to pair seamlessly with spirits.
Based on my research, the cocktail mixers came first, then beer. So, why beer?
We found ourselves mixing beer with Owl’s Brew so often that every time we had a beer, we wished we had some Owl’s Brew to go with it. We always knew we wanted to eventually move into the ready to drink space and creating a radler was such a natural next step. Basically, we fell in love with it, and then had to make it.
Owl’s Brew Radlers incorporate wheat ale, an amber, and even a seasonal version using a stout. Is there a plan to experiment with other styles?
We’ll be working on an IPA next.
I read that you’re brewing your own beer. Where are you brewing out of? Are there plans to expand on this, like, let’s say, beer minus the tea?
We’re brewing at Steven’s Point — they’ve been great partners and we really enjoy working with them! At this time, there are no plans for beer minus tea.
What’s the future of Owl’s Brew? Anything you’re currently working on that you can tell us about?
We’re getting ready to launch some holiday flavors with Owl’s Brew Mixer — one of my favorites is Salted Caramel Toddy, which can be served cold or hot, with bourbon or rum. Also, come spring 2018, we’ll have Owl’s Brew Radlers on draft. I can’t wait!
What are your interests when you’re not working?
I love traveling and reading. I also have two small children — so when I’m not brewing, I’m momming!
If you’d like to wise up on all things Owl’s Brew, including a bunch of cocktail recipes, and where to find it in New York and Connecticut, visit www.theowlsbrew.com and check out their Facebook page to stay in the loop. For all things radler related, visit www.owlsbrewradler.com.