Tequila is a polarizing spirit—you either love its spicy, herbal character, or one whiff brings back gag-inducing memories of bottom-shelf shooters chased with dry limes and table salt. For those in the former group, we offer these five brews that utilize the unique flavor of the Mexican liquor.
Avery Brewing Co.
Let’s face it: Avery has a habit of going big with barrel-aged beers. Most of them have ABVs in the high teens; many are syrup-thick and have flavor so massively rich and bourbony they welcome a nap halfway through. At just 5.9%, Expletus is refreshingly light on the palate—and the liver. Funky wet hay and soil meld with sweet cherries in the top of the aroma while layers of curacao, noyaux and little buttery vanilla center the scent. The flavor kicks off with sweet cherry fading to agave and molasses, while the finish is all red apple and tongue-twisting tartness. While the impact of tequila is just a bit subtle for our tastes, the brew’s gorgeous tart cherry character pulls out smooth oaky tones that makes this 35th release in Avery’s barrel-aged series one of its best.
The Rare Barrel
Rare Barrel co-founder Alex Wallash understands that combining the flavors of tequila and beer can be a dangerous game. “Tequila can be a polarizing word/drink for some people, since I think most of us have had one of those nights where we say to ourselves ‘That was a crazy night…I’m never drinking tequila again!’” he says. “You’ll find in No Salt that the notes of tequila and agave are accents to the golden sour, instead of in-your-face, let’s-take-shots tequila flavor.” You sure will—in fact, we almost wish there was more tequila character to go with the swirling stone fruit and almond of the nose or the lime-and-salt character of the flavor. Sharp agave accents do eventually emerge beneath the brew’s formidable tartness, adding the subtlest herbal edge to this well-made golden sour.
Tequila Barrel-Aged D’Lila
Mother’s Brewing Co.
D’Lila, the base of this tequila-aged strong ale, is a strange brew even before it sees the inside of a barrel: It’s nearly 9% ABV, fermented like a traditional wheat beer, hopped like an IPA, and flavored with orange peel, lemon peel and bergamot tea. Combine those aspects with tequila, and you get an aroma that leads with earthy/herbal agave followed closely by cardamom and black tea. Sugars are nearly absent from the flavor, making the brew’s oakiness and tequila herbaceousness all the more pronounced. Citrusy hop bitterness lingers after the swallow, as does warming alcohol, making the entire drinking experience not unlike sipping a salt-rimmed margarita. This is one only for the tequila believers; those on the fence need not apply.
Adroit Theory Brewing
Deep burgundy in hue with a tight tan head, this barrel-aged barleywine exhibits intense malt sweetness in the nose: toffee, chocolate, cocoa, toasty oak. The addition of agave reads as earthiness, accenting age-derived notes of leather and figs before a flash of mint. Caramel, brown sugar and a little cocoa slide across the palate, fading to dried bread crust before the swallow alights with cherry and tequila. After the swallow, booze (all 10.7% of it) arrives and chases everything away, though bitterness and oaky tannins slowly rise between each sip.
Tequila Barrel Aged Tiamat
MadTree Brewing Co.
Six months in tequila barrels transforms Cincinnati-based MadTree’s peach saison from fruity to funky. Summery farmhouse aromatics—straw, lemon zest, peppercorns, grass—sit below a blanket of oaky tequila in the nose; the flavor remains peach-forward, layering dried stone fruit notes throughout the boozy brew to tame its pronounced agave character as well as its moderate acidity.