Exploring the Craft Beer Cocktail Movement with an Open Glass

Our resident beer expert mixes it up with some unique beer cocktails


There are a lot of boozy movements out there these days. You've got your craft cocktail movement, your craft beer movement and your craft beer cocktail movement. Wait, what was that last one? You heard me right! And we're talking about much more than a Michelada.

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.

Liquid Pie

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
Ice

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
IPA

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.

Wrap-Up

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.

To find out more about Ashley Routson, The Beer Wench and the "Director of Awesomeness" at Bison Brewing in Berkeley, Calif., visit her websites: Drink With The Wench, Beer Mixology and IPADay.org.

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Comments

  • Snooth User: bobwhaley
    671325 1

    Undoubtibly one of the goofiest articles I have ever read. From start to finish a list of cocktails and recipes that are not followed. Ok, ok, you didn't have all of the perscribed ingrediants. Why not just give us the generic recipes and let us all find out what is important, name brand wise, or whatever? Sorry, this is not good writing even though it is only the internet.

    Sep 07, 2012 at 11:48 PM


  • Snooth User: dflanz
    462789 13

    I agree. We have no idea whhat most of the beertails would really taste like, so what is the point of the article?

    Sep 08, 2012 at 9:04 AM


  • This article reads as if two first grade students were narrating their adventures making mud pies. Very disappointing.

    Sep 08, 2012 at 10:08 AM


  • Snooth User: Clare Goggin Sivits
    Hand of Snooth
    1066509 632

    Ouch. Well, my ultimate goal was just to show that anyone can make these cocktails even if they need to make a few adjustments when it comes to the exact recipe. Overall, I think the only one I really messed up was the Witty Gin Fizz. But they can't all be gems.

    Sep 11, 2012 at 10:10 AM


  • What happens when a restaurant runs out of an important ingredient for a popular dish that they make on a very busy Friday night? Most improvise. Bartenders do the same thing. Do you know how many times I've walked into a bar, asking for a cocktail that they couldn't make *exactly* to my specs -- but instead improvised and made a variation on the drink that I originally wanted that was equally as tasty, if not as tasty as the original thing?

    The fancier a cookbook, the harder it is to replicate a recipe. I'd love to see a housewife in a landlocked state attempt to make a seafood recipe in Thomas Keller's French Laundry cookbook without needing to substitute ingredients to "make it work."

    To be a critic, is fine. But educate yourself before publicly attacking someone else online. Clare is an extremely educated and passionate advocate of craft beer. She was SPOT ON about her substitutions. The original recipes did not call for specific brands of beer, but styles. And she was able to recreate my recipes using similar brands of beer within the style categories of the beers that I used in the original recipes.

    Clare did what any creative bartender would do -- she improvised. And no offense, but most of you would probably have to improvise as well, if you lived in different regions of the country that did not offer the same beers and spirits that I have access to in California.

    The integrity of the recipes remained in tact, and she followed them the best to her ability -- which is all we can ask from her.

    If you think you can do better, then go and start your own blog.

    PS: Clare, thanks for the props, you did a great job!

    Sep 11, 2012 at 12:56 PM


  • Snooth User: vinohiker
    1118059 31

    This idea is amazing. I feel as though the food and beverage industry is taking off, and we as consumers are coming up with many creative ideas for the better of our palate-YUM!!!

    Sep 11, 2012 at 4:18 PM


  • Snooth User: rosebrien
    79281 34

    Sorry, I appreciate the defensive tactics, but I agree with the comments re: poor article. How many times have I read a recipe and the person says "I didn't really like it, but I left out 2 key ingredients and changed the recipe completely". Huh? Then you have a DIFFERENT recipe, and you can't comment. You CAN publish your recipe, then perhaps recommend changes, but a recipe is just that - a list of recommended ingredients. if you want to be creative, fine, but don't confuse it with the original recipe. Also, shouldn't a recipe include some basic steps for preparing? Are all of these to be "muddled" in a cocktail glass, then topped with the beer? Very poor...

    Sep 17, 2012 at 6:03 PM


  • Snooth User: Clare Goggin Sivits
    Hand of Snooth
    1066509 632

    The emphasis here was really on the idea that beer cocktails are on the rise. I certainly invite everyone to give these cocktails a try.

    @Rosebrien, Thanks for the comment. In reality, there's only one recipe that was dramatically different and I do provide the all the alternatives that I use (most of which are simply a changing of the brand). While I provide the original recipe to highlight how unique and intricate beer cocktails can be, I make it clear that what I've created is not the original -- so I'm aware that I'm not judging the original. In addition, I do provide instructions for those two recipes for which I did not have a recipe link -- for all the others, instructions are provided in the link that I reference. But in the future, I'll keep your suggestions in mind.

    Sep 17, 2012 at 6:16 PM


  • Snooth User: spicycurry
    764650 53

    What's with calling for specific spirit brands for these cocktails? Are the companies that make these spirits paying you to mention them? what this does at a retail level, is when a consumer comes in looking for Damrak Gin for the beer cocktail they're making and the store doesn't stock it, they'll more often than not walk back out into the night without buying anything. This is because most folks treat recipes as gospel, so they won't be inclined to sub another gin, even though many gins would work. And now you have consumers wandering the street looking for Damrak, which while produced by a company with some reach in the marketplace, is not a gin you bump into that often yet. Why make everyone work so hard?

    Feb 11, 2013 at 7:59 AM


  • Snooth User: coltspam
    1327708 34

    very well

    Aug 02, 2013 at 11:58 PM


  • nice

    Aug 30, 2013 at 2:51 AM


  • good one

    Aug 31, 2013 at 4:58 AM


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