I never get tired of drinking beer. But, occasionally I do get a little creative with it and slide behind my bar and start to experiment with some beer cocktails.
you may be incredulously saying out loud at this page. One of the earliest beer cocktails ever recorded stems back to 1695 in a reference made in William Congreve’s classic farce, Love for Love, in which Ben Legend remarks; “We’re merry folks, we sailors: we hadn’t much to care for. Thus we live at sea; eat biscuit, and drink flip, put on a clean shirt once a quarter; come home and lie with our landladies once a year, get rid of a little money, and then put off with the next fair wind.” The Flip he speaks of was a cocktail made of beer, rum and sugar and was heated up with a blazing hot iron poker (let’s see some bartenders on Queen West do that!). Over the years the beer component faded from the classic Flip but new beer cocktail variations began.
Not to be outdone, the Germans had begun playing with beer cocktails in the 16th century but in a slightly different manner. The Berliner Weisse became one of the most popular drinks in Northern Germany by the 19th century. This low-alcohol (usually around 3%), classic wheat beer that was deliberately soured commonly by the introduction of Lactobacillus. This bacteria; which has a ton of different food production applications from sourdough bread to yoghurt and kimchi, creates lactic acid that makes things taste sour. The Berliner Weisse was traditionally served in a stout, bowl-shaped glass alongside a small glass of fruit flavoured syrups, commonly raspberry.
Most beer cocktail purists would call the Berliner Weisse a version of Shandy instead of a true beer cocktail. A Shandy or Radler is usually a combination of equal parts beer and carbonated lemonade or soda. The last couple of years have seen a huge upsurge in commercial versions of this style of beer cocktail with one of the most popular being Steigl’s Grapefruit Radler which launched this past summer in Ontario. Equal parts Steigl-Goldbrau and sparkling grapefruit juice made this beer an instant hit here and one of my wife’s favourite beers of all time. Clocking in at only 2.5% alcohol it makes a great, light, refreshing beverage that even the most jaded beer-hater will love. If you can find it at your local LCBO – buy it! They don’t last long and it takes weeks for the next shipment to arrive.
Now we enter the area of beer cocktails that most mixologists in Toronto are focusing on (no – not “Boilermakers” and “Irish Car Bombs”) – creating finely crafted cocktails using beer, spirits and bitters. This relatively new area of mixology stems directly from the local food movement and craft beer scene and has not only taken off in some of our finest gastro pubs but also in large chain restaurants as well. The great thing is that the sky really is the limit when creating a fine beer cocktail.
Creating beer cocktails is quite easy, and if you start by adhering to your basic food pairing principals you’ll find that nirvana is just around the corner. Combine comparable flavours that will enhance each other and elevate them to a new high (think of chocolate, cream, coffee for starters) or contrasting flavours that may be too strong on their own but perfect when married together (think sour and sweet or salty).
What the heck is a beer cocktail
Fill a pint glass with your favourite lager or light and use the back of a spoon to help layer a nice stout on top of it. Classically people have used Guinness as the go-to stout but you should try Sinha Stout from Lion Brewing – a highly regarded classic imperial stout that just doesn’t get enough love out there.
A Classic with a Twist
If you want to elevate your Caesar why not kick it up to a Canadian Red Eye?
- Celery salt, for rimming the glass
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- 3 dashes Worchester Sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon hot sauce (or more)
- 2 turns fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 light lager – any will do
[divider]Time to Graduate – If you think you are ready, let’s mix up some Hangman’s Blood. The first time I had this I went and kissed my children and wife just in case I didn’t make it through. Shockingly good, it’s scary as hell on paper. Famed British author Anthony Burgess sold me on it with his description; “It tastes very smooth, induces a somewhat metaphysical elation, and rarely leaves a hangover”.
- 1 ¼ oz gin
- 1 ¼ oz rum
- 1 ¼ oz whiskey
- 1 ¼ oz brandy
- 1 ¼ oz port
- 5 oz of your favourite stout
- 4 oz Champagne
Need some more recommendations? Fire me off a tweet!