There was a time, not so long ago, when beer was a beverage unto itself. Open the can and get into the beverage, or let the beverage get into you. There were no decisions to be made. No asking deep questions about taste, after-taste, aroma, or finish. There were lots of choices but all were about the same.
You could slurp those beers down any time of year, and never question what was in it, the style, or what to have to eat with it. You really did not care since you drank the same brand all the time. It was “yours” – pretty straightforward. Not so much anymore.
Today’s beer styles, readily available at a tap from behind the bar or on the shelf in the grocery store, cover a wide spectrum of flavors, aromas, weights, points of origin, even added ingredients such as fruit. Hops, a basic ingredient of beer, can be domestic, foreign, or a blend with each bringing something different to the party. Some beers are even aged in old barrels previously used for wine or whisky.
For those of you thinking wine or spirits are complicated topics and that beer is simple and straightforward, you are not thinking through the challenge or you have been living far too long in a beer-induced fantasy world that has long passed. The rise of the craft brewing art has brought to the world complications about beer that our grandparents never experienced, nor likely would they have tolerated. Face it, those were simpler times. Not easier, not better, just simpler.
We’ve covered the new world of beer in these ramblings before; no need to double-back. But what we want to note today is that beer is not only a beverage on its own, it is also being incorporated into the world of cocktails. Lots of worlds out there to be discovered.
The new breed of bartender/mixologist wants to find ingredients and combinations left under rocks by those who came before. These professional, creative and curious young men and women, always a combination of three out of five of those terms, are using beer as the core ingredient in a cocktail instead of, or in addition to, the spirit choice. The results are often interesting, sometime stunning, usually attention-getting and, to their credit, require another taste.
While beer cocktails are nothing really new, not many folks on this side of the pond have gravitated to the idea. Shandys are very popular in Western Europe, and then there’s the always pleasant Black and Tan or the Boilermaker, both from Ireland, as well as the line of Micheladas from Mexico. Most Americans have not thought to use beer in this way.
More amazing about that factoid is the type of beer we Americans seem to enjoy, the lighter pilsner style is perfect as a cocktail ingredient. Its weight and softer taste blends with and does not compete with other additives in the cocktail.
Let’s try a few of these blends on for size:
Sailor Jerry Throw Shade
- 2 parts Sailor Jerry Rum
- Juice of half a lime
- 1.5 parts simple syrup
- 8 mint leaves
- Amber lager
-Muddle simple syrup & mint.
-Add Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum and shake over ice.
-Serve in beer mug or pint glass on the rocks.
-Topped with Amber Lager.
-Garnish w/ lime and mint.
The Backyard Boule
- 1 part Drambuie
- 2 parts Grapefruit Juice
- 4 Mint Leaves
- 3 parts Weissbier
-Lightly shake Drambuie, grapefruit juice and mint leaves together.
-Add beer to the shaker before straining over ice.
-Garnish with a mint sprig.
The Monkey Shoulder Ginger Brewsky
- 1 part Monkey Shoulder Malt Scotch Whisky
- ¾ part Ginger syrup
- ¾ part Fresh lemon juice
-Add all ingredients other than beer to shaker.
-Shake well with ice.
-Strain into glass and top with beer.
A big thank you to William Grant and Sons for the recipes featuring spirit brands they represent in the U.S.
So, as you get yourself into full festival mode with plenty of activities coming in the next six weeks, pack in a few ingredients, see if you can get them past the guards at the gates, purchase a beer on the grounds, and really enjoy something different.
Or throw a different request at your favorite bartender and see if they are up to the challenge. When it comes to cocktails, the term “same ole, same ole” is not a compliment to your standards.
Read Happy Hour here on www.myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed at www.wgso.com.