Craft Mixology Experiments with Beer Cocktails

Beer Cocktails

The choice used to be beer, wine, or a cocktail. Now, cocktails created using beer are appearing on bar and restaurant menus everywhere you look. Brew pubs and bars with a wide range of beers on tap tend to be in the forefront of those offering these craft cocktails.

With craft beer cocktails something new, rather than being rooted in long-standing drink tradition, purveyors are learning to pair beer flavors with spirits that complement them, such as Saison beer with gin, or a stout with rum. Matching intensity between the spirit and the beer is also key. The hoppier the brew, the more a stronger flavored spirit should be used in the mix. Adding beer to a cocktail essentially adds an extra flavor element to the drink, a refined version of the classic beer and a shot.

Back in 1861, the first beer cocktail was created. That would be The Black Velvet, made from stout and sparkling white wine, created to toast and mourn the death of Prince Albert by the bartender at London’s Brooks Club. Later came beverages like The Black and Tan, which layers stout and lager, or the Shandy, which mixes beer with tap lemonade, or a variation that combines beer, lemonade, and vodka. While these recipes are hardly memorable, today’s generation of beer cocktails are. London’s Cocktail Week recently hosted a beer cocktail competition, highlighting what dining and drinking establishments already know: beer cocktails are refreshing, often provide more drink volume to patrons, and add an adventurous edge to many traditional drinks. Beers can be used as alternatives to soda or juice, or take the place of spirits if full liquor licenses are unavailable. Beer can also be simply used as an accent to a drink, to add the taste of beer to a cocktail without the full carbonated volume.

In short, from the days of The Black Velvet to the present, beer cocktails have become a lot more sophisticated.

So what are these new beer cocktails exactly? Often, beer can be used to replace champagne, even in mimosas, for a lighter, brighter, more savory edge. Rye whiskey is a great blend with an IPA – add cream syrup for a slightly spicy aperitif. At Barrel Down, a craft beer hall in downtown Los Angeles, a popular beer-based cocktail is called Catcher in the Rye, combining Lagunitas Pilsner with Wild Turkey, lime, and Aperol.

Then there are beer cocktails that don’t involve hard spirits. At The Tripel in Playa Del Rey, Calif., having only a beer and wine license is not a problem – inventive cocktails include the Bavarian Pear made with Hefeweizen, pear cider, and pear puree. New York City’s Rosa Mexicano chain features several beer cocktail blends: the Chelita is beer, fresh lime juice and spices on the rocks; La Sangrita combines beer with a spicy blend of fruit juices, such as orange juice and tomato juice.

With craft beer options growing seemingly daily, new options for beer cocktails are also growing. Whether you’re looking for a refreshing beer and fresh juice blend or a mix of heady spirits and stellar brew, beer cocktails are quite literally on tap.

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