At the forefront of this movement, which has gained a lot of momentum of late, is my friend and fellow beer blogger, Ashley Routson -- she's known as the Beer Wench by most. As she tells it, beer cocktails have become what they are today because of the the intersection of the craft beer movement and the craft cocktail movement.
"The foundation, the reason for [the craft beer movement's] evolution and rapid growth has been and continues to be innovation," Ashley said. "Mixing beer into craft cocktails only seems like the next logical step on the path of brewing innovation."
I'm game! So, I asked Ashley to share some of her favorite beer cocktail recipes with me. She did and I gave them a whirl -- in my own special way. My husband and a friend acted as my unbiased judges.
The first recipe I whipped up was a Witty Gin Fizz, one that Ashley described as easy. Basically, it's a Gin Fizz minus soda water and plus beer.
The original recipe calls for:
1.5 oz St. George Botanivore Gin
0.5 oz Fresh Lime Juice
0.5 oz Monin's Elderflower Syrup
0.25 oz Pasterized Egg Whites
4 oz Maui Brewing La Perouse (Belgian Wit)
I replaced the St. George Botanivore Gin (an awesome gin that we couldn't find near us) with another brand of gin and the elderflower syrup (which we could not find in the store) with blueberry syrup (we were short on options and it seemed like a good idea at the time). We also had to use Ommegang Witte instead of the Maui La Perouse.
The final product was sweet and probably a little too heavy on the blueberry (perhaps honey would have been a better alternative). Overall, it was a nice cocktail to sip on a hot day.
Strawberry Blonde Brewjito
Next, we went with the second cocktail Ashley identified as easy: a Strawberry Blonde Brewjito. As you can likely guess, this is basically a mojito with beer and strawberries.
This recipe requires:
1 oz Bacardi Rum
0.5 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
0.25 Agave Nectar
5 oz Maui Brewing Bikini Blonde Lager
1 Strawberry, quartered
5 Mint Leaves
Of the whole batch, this was probably one of the few for which I was able to find nearly all the ingredients -- even the agave nectar. Only the Maui Blonde was absent since that brewery does not distribute to my neck of the woods. Instead, we went with a Leffe. The muddling was a bit of a challenge since we were using a mortar and pestle, but it still turned out well. The combination of the blonde, rum, mint and strawberry was very refreshing and flavorful. All three of us were pretty happy with this one.
Ashley's favorite cocktail, she tells me, is the Liquid Pie. She describes it as "a refreshing, Bourbon-based beer cocktail with fresh berries." The description alone had me drooling.
This one called for:
4-6 Fresh Blueberries
2 Fresh Blackberries
1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1 oz Bourbon
1/2 oz Agave Nectar
Trumer Pils for topping
I was pretty happy to have all the items I needed for this recipe as well. The only thing we didn't have was the Trumer Pils (once again, not really found in my neighborhood). Instead, we used a Radeberger Pilsner. We didn't have a Champagne glass available (which is what the recipe calls for) but we poured it into some nice tulip glasses. It's a sweet and refreshing drink and the berries definitely add a texture that you wouldn't normally get from a boring cocktail. Keep in mind that you do need to be a bourbon fan for this one.
The Birds and The Brews
In addition to the fantastic cocktails Ashley shared, I also came upon a few others that I thought I'd try. The Birds and the Brews was the first of two that were shared with me by Vanberg & DeWulf, an importer of Belgian beers located in Cooperstown. This importer was an instrumental partner in bringing a "Beertails" seminar to this year's Tales of the Cocktail. This 'tail (and the one on the next page) were both mixed up (shaken, more precisely) at that seminar.
The original recipe called for:
1.5 oz HUM Botanical Rum
1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
0.5 oz Honey Syrup
1.5 oz Strong Brewed Rare Tea Cellars Gingerbread Dreams Rooibos Tea
5 oz Chilled Saison Dupont
We used a generic rum, replaced the honey syrup with regular old honey and substituted a ginger tea for the one suggested. Combine and shake everything but the beer (we went with the Dupont), pour over ice and top with the Saison. While a bit heavy on the ginger (which may have been a repercussion of changing up the recipe), it was still pretty refreshing and delicious.
Dark and Stoutly
As I mentioned on the last slide, this cocktail was also served at the Beertails seminar: Dark and Stoutly. I'll be honest, this concoction didn't particularly appeal to me at first. I rarely want to drink a stout in the middle of summer and several of the additional ingredients seemed a bit odd. Still, I pulled it together.
The original recipe called for:
1.5 oz Ginger-Habanero syrup
1.5 oz El Dorado 15 Year
0.5 oz Lime Juice
5 oz Monk's Stout
As usual, I had to trade out some ingredients. When we couldn't find ginger-habanero syrup, we substituted ginger syrup and mixed it with a pinch (the smallest pinch) of cayenne. We also used Guinness as a replacement for the stout and we went with a boring rum rather than the 15 Year suggested to stay within a reasonable budget. Shake all ingredients and pour over ice in a glass.
The spice was a nice counter to the maltiness of the stout and the lime juice really added a bit of flavor too. I actually ended up really liking this.
Gin IPA Spritz
My final beer cocktail was inspired by IPA Day, which was August 2. The Damrak IPA Spritz comes from Jacob Grier, a bartender and cocktail consultant from Portland, Ore. I stole this one from the IPADay.org website but it was well worth the effort.
The recipe calls for:
1 oz Damrak Gin
1/2 oz Aperol or Campari
1/2 oz lemon juice
As usual, we couldn't find the exact brand of gin mentioned so we went with another brand (which means this is really just a "Gin IPA Spritz") and we chose Campari over Aperol. We also went with 5 oz of a Goose Island IPA. Combine all ingredients except the IPA in a glass with rocks then top with the IPA and stir. It's a nice, citrussy combination complementing the bite of the hops. While not my favorite of the bunch, it was a great example of a well-balanced concoction. I do have to admit that I'm typically not a gin fan.
The cocktail experience definitely opened my eyes to the possibilities that beer gives and how other flavors can really enhance my favorite hops. I'm excited to find one of these recipes at a cocktail bar sometime soon. Ashley notes that several bars have already made an art out of the beer cocktail. Her favorite place to go for a beer cocktail is Denver, Colo., where both Euclid Hall and Star Bar boast some fantastic cocktail menu items.
For her, beer cocktails are a labor of love. "I'm a craft beer evangelist and artisan cocktail enthusiast," Ashley said. "The mere notion of combining two of my greatest passions gets me all worked up."
For me, someone who is not a talented cocktail maker, I love the idea and I'll drink one any day. Next time, I'll probably leave the mixing to someone else.