Appalachian Mountain Brewing, Bojangles and sweet iced tea — three North Carolina icons — have come together to create a new beverage, Bojangles Hard Sweet Tea, so we had to put down our beer for a moment and check it out.
We normally stick to beer here at BeerWhere, but we have a long history with sweet tea and Bojangles so we were really curious to see what this collaboration had cooked up. Nobody knows sweet tea like the Bo, their version of the Southern supersaturated-with-sugar staple is a fine example of the breed. And Appalachian Mountain Brewing is one of the finest brewers in the Southeast.
Nothing about the appearance of this drink gives away the fact that there's alcohol in it. There is no fizz, foam or head at all. The drink does have a slight smell of lemon and white wine that regular tea doesn't. It's very stealthy booze if that's something you're looking for. Careful the kids don't get hold of it.
True Southern sweet tea is sweetened while it is still hot in order to pack in the most sugar. Home cooks add the sugar once the steeping is done. Restaurants often brew a few gallons at a time and then add simple syrup to sweeten the batch. We have no idea how things might be handled at the commercial level.
Hard Sweet Tea has plenty of sugar in it, 37 grams worth, but it isn't nearly as sweet as the tea you get in the restaurant, which packs 44 grams of sugar into the same 16 ounces, according to Bojangles. Hard Sweet Tea has 270 calories in 16 ounces compared to 170 calories in the regular Legendary Sweet Tea. The alcohol adds calories.
Unlike for beer, nutrition information is required on this drink, so we have the ingredients available to us, which are filtered water (of course), cold-fermented cane sugar (there is some of your alcohol and sweetness), liquid cane sugar (the rest of the sweetness), black tea (naturally) and, finally, rice. There's not much rice in there if it's listed after the tea leaves, but rice is often fermented and used in brewing to boost alcohol content without messing with the flavor too much. Fermenting that sugar and rice is where the AMB magic is applied to the mix. The ingredients list let us know that this beverage really is just tea with alcohol added and not some synthetic approximation of tea.
You can taste the booze even though it's just 5% alcohol by volume. The alcohol taste is comparable to that of a glass of wine or a low-proof schnapps, but it isn't as sharp or pronounced. It isn't nearly as in-your-face boozy as something like an imperial bourbon stout.
Because it is less sweet than their regular iced tea, you do get a little bit more of the bitterness of the tea poking its head through than you do with regular sweet tea.