It's not that until this time no one thought of using a hops and malt-driven foamy beverage in a cocktail – no, wait, that is pretty much exactly what it is. Not many devotees of beer decided that their beverage of choice could serve another purpose, as a cocktail mixer, for instance, until this point.
Lack of creativity? Plenty of other combinations to keep us occupied? Narrow definitions of what beer can deliver? No historic reference to bring beer and spirits together? The prevailing belief that beer is an open-it-and-drink-it drink, not a "take a few moments and measure out ingredients” drink.
All of the above in one perspective or another have kernels of truth, but it took a simultaneous arrival of philosophies and circumstance to add beer to the pantheon of cocktail ingredients and make matters, finally, very interesting.
First of all, not too long ago, craft cocktails became all the rage…again. Give credit to ingenious distillers, desirous of expanding the application of their spirit, who brought to the fore all manner of product in order to deliver new flavor experiences. Then there’s the profit motive, which is ultimately the gasoline on the fire.
Yet, let’s assume that the modern cocktail revolution was also about creativity and one-upmanship. Hey, everybody, look over here and worship the drink I have created. Not just good, it’s great.
In this consuming black hole of mixology, where every possible ingredient in the area is sucked into the vortex, that can of beer would ultimately become another element in the pursuit of cocktail fame.
Also to be credited, on the other side, is the rise of the craft beer movement. We can debate well into the night, with the aid of many beers and spirits (your choice), which came first: craft beer or craft cocktails. Yet it is the final outcome that is of the most interest. With the pantheon of aromas and flavors in both camps, what human mental blockage do you suppose was in the way for everyone to take so long and come to the realization that the mix of both beer and cocktail ingredients, including spirits, would be a suitable marriage?
To be fair, over the years, there has been a smattering of experimentation but nothing to really get our attention and hold our interest. We trifled with putting a spirit into beer, like the lethal Irish Car Bomb, a Guinness in a mug into which is dropped a jigger, glass and all, of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey, with the whole shebang being consumed in one long gulp. Makes for an interesting rowdy bar test of virility and, after a few, plan on a very short evening. I speak from experience here, not hearsay.
Down Mexico way, they are proud of their micheladas, a beer-based cocktail on which no one can exactly agree on what is supposed to be in it. It is agreed by all pertinent parties that a lighter style Mexican beer is supposed to be one of the ingredients. Some folks then use tomato juice while others claim clamato makes for the most authentic michelada cocktails. Lime juice is beyond discussion, use a lot of it. Then either or all of teriyaki sauce, Worcestershire, soy, hot sauce, Maggi and salt, the latter mostly for rimming.
After those two beer cocktail mainstays, the air gets a little thin and the opportunity to step up to a bar and call for a beer cocktail is practically non-existent. Up until now, many “beertail” recipes are simply adding other ingredients, such as fresh fruit and juice, to a beer. That is not really a beer cocktail, in my opinion, and if that was such a grand idea, many brewmasters would have done that already. Oh, and by the way, they already have.
Today, there are the many flavors from the myriad of craft beer developers coupled with our new-found passion for creative cocktails opening up new tasting vistas and tactile experiences.
Let’s focus on those beer cocktail recipes that truly fit the description of a cocktail, which is a few ingredients combining to take the drinker to another tasting experience, different from the ingredients’ character when enjoyed by themselves.
Vitamin C Brew
Thanks to Bon Appetit
2 oz. fresh orange juice (or to taste)
1 oz. gin (or to desire)
8 oz. American-style lager
1 orange wheel for garnish
Combine juice and gin in a pint glass, add beer. Top with garnish.
Thanks to Bon Appetit
1 oz. Aperol
1 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
Belgian Wheat Beer
Combine Aperol and lemon juice in a pint glass filled with ice.
Top off with beer. Garnish with lemon twist.
Thanks to Drinks Business
Stout, like Guinness
Sparkling Wine or Champagne, Brut
In a Champagne flute, add equal parts of each spirit, carefully pouring the stout over the back of an inverted spoon to preserve the layered effect in the beverage. This cocktail was created in 1861 at the Brooks Club in London to honor Prince Albert on his death. The look of the drink suggested its name, emulating the armbands worn by mourners in the Prince’s honor.
Created by Anthony Burgess
Double Shot of Gin, Rum, Whiskey, Port, and Brandy
4 oz. Champagne, Brut
Pint of Guinness
Burgess authored A Clockwork Orange, and the drink appeals to the man’s masochistic side, although he claimed it rarely left a hangover.
The final point here is that the plethora of craft beers opens new doors to fertile cocktail imaginations. Drinkers no longer are hidebound to beer being a stand-alone adult beverage. There’s a lot of play-room for beer and spirits together in the same glass.
And there’s a lot of football ahead. Why go the usual beverage route when cheering the Tigers, the Saints, or whomever?