Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Beer... Is there anything it can't do?

Earlier this month, the New York Times published an article about beer-based cocktails. Around the same time, there was at least one lively thread on whether adding other ingredients to packaged craft beer (or vice-versa) was disrespectful to the art-in-a-glass. I'm not sure I agree with that, but I can appreciate the argument.

Mixing beer with other ingredients is nothing new. The Germans have been doing it for ages with the Radler ("Cyclist"), a beer & lemon soda combo perfect for summer. College kids do it (Irish Car Bombs, anyone?), I think everyone's heard of a Snakebite (lager & cider), and I know you have been fervently drinking Micheladas ever since I posted about them.

Speaking of Micheladas, in late June John and I ventured over to Free State (have you seen their new website?) where they offer a Michelada... Free State style. It's not really as much a Michelada as it a margarita with beer instead of triple sec. It's made by filling a glass with ice, adding tequlia and sour mix, then topping it off with their Wheat State Golden. I'd had everything else on their menu on other visits; why not try it? I'm glad I did. It was light, refreshing, and surprisingly easy to drink. Almost too easy. If you like beer, and if you like tequila, I highly recommend checking it out.

After the Free State Michelada experience, my curiosity was set alight and I looked online for other beer cocktails. As it turns out, it seems they're growing in both popularity and acceptance, bordering on (dare I say it) trendy. lists a "top 5 beer cocktails" article. A Google search for "beer cocktail" provides over 13 million results. I spent much of my lunch hour today looking at recipes and suggestions. I thought the "Skip & Go Naked" (PBR + Gin + Grenadine + Lemon) sounded pretty tasty, but then I stumbled upon a gin, Duvel, and absinthe concoction that I can't wait to try.

Mixing beer with spirits isn't the only option, however. Combining different beers together also lends some new taste experiences. Of course, there's the quintessential mixed beer drink, the black & tan (or the half & half if you prefer lager with your stout instead of ale). But what about more creative combinations? I've seen Young's Double Chocolate Stout + Lindemans Framboise grace a few menus in the past few years, but not much else. When we lived in Portland, the Rogue Public House (just a few blocks from our apartment - those were the days!) had an entire menu of mixed beers, each with its own name. Consider, for example, Dead Guy Ale mixed with Old Crustacean barleywine (a "Dead Crusty Guy"). Or how about Chocolate Stout and Hazelnut Brown ("Snickers")? And lest Kansas City be left out of the beer-mixing trend, we have our very own Thundercloud (Boulevard wheat & stout).

So what do you think? Does mixing beer with spirits wreck or disrespect the beer? Are there any beer combinations you think are particularly good? I don't know about you, but I think these questions are best answered after some thorough research!


  1. I don't mind the summer beers I've had, and generally take some V8 to mix with Miller Lite when going to football tailgates in the fall.

    The worst mixer I've had was during an Old Chicago St Pat's mini-tour...Guinness on top of Sprite. In a close second is the Flying Saucer's "Preacher's Collar." Maredous 8 and Woodcheck Pear...ack.

  2. My mom used to drink Spicy Tom + beer (Weinhard's or MGD) a lot when I was a kid. I like it.

    That Preacher's Collar sounds horrible. At the very least, they could have picked a good cider.

    I had a Black Velvet (stout + champagne) at Free State once. Didn't like it, but figured I'd give it a shot. I should have listened to John.

  3. Yeah, the Black Velvet wasn't too special, certainly not for the price. I think all of the elements of it that i appreciated are present in the Boulevard Dry Stout already.

    Beer blends are awesome. Mixing coffee and chocolate stouts is fun, though not the riskiest or most creative. Bell's Expedition and Bell's Java Stout- wow! I really enjoyed blending a Stone-Mikkeller-Alesmith Triple with the DeProef/Port Signature collaboration but maybe as much for the novelty of having so many brewers in the mix as anything. Next time i may throw in some Collaboration Not Litigation to get two more breweries in the mix.

    I'd also like to do some vertical blends of a single beer. Have a vertical tasting then blend them. Probably Oerbier- 2005, 2006 reserva, 2007 reserva, 2007, 2008. Of course, the lambic brewers have been doing this forever.

    So much could be done, i could go on and on. It really opens up a whole new realm of beer possibilities.

  4. The vertical sounds fun. I've been thinking about doing a horizontal tasting with some friends but haven't gotten around to it (and I don't think blending them would be a great idea, ha).

    You reminded me - a few weeks back I was in Baltimore and picked up a little bottle of strawberry lambic and some oude bruin and it was fabulous. The dryness of the lambic was balanced really well by the bruin. Good stuff.
    (can't remember what the bruin was)


Tasting Notes