In Mixed Company: Beer opens up new possibilities for cross-drinking
What do the Black and Tan, Snakebite, Crown Float and Michelada have in common? They’re mixed drinks made with beer, a top restaurant trend for 2013. Beer purists can take heart: as beer cocktail specialist Ashley Routson says, “You are not trying to improve the quality of the beer. You are trying to improve the cocktail experience by adding beer and bringing new dimensions and flavours.” So sneak a peak at some refreshing beer cocktails to slake your summertime thirst. These recipes definitely have pitcher potential. And you won’t want to stop at just one glass.
Californian Ashley Routson, also known as TheBeerWench, calls herself a “craft beer evangelist.” Ashley’s interest in beer came through her work with wine in a retail shop and as a restaurant manager. “I realized that beer had a flavour spectrum similar to wine and was a bit more interesting because it had ingredients that could be manipulated and you could throw in anything, especially now.” Routson sees beer cocktails as a “cross-drinker” beverage perfect for introducing wine, cocktail and spirits aficionados to craft beer. It contributes flavour and carbonation to cocktails and has a similar flavour profile to spirits made out of grain.
In creating cocktails, Routson begins with styles of beer and spirits she likes putting together. “I’m a fan of IPA (India Pale Ale) with tequila and mescal. IPA, especially the West Coast-style, has interesting components that are very similar to those in tequila. They are both bitter and come together really well,” she says. Routson also likes to mix gin with Belgian beers to complement the slight sweetness with floral character. For a twist on a Gin Fizz, Routson shakes gin, lemon juice, syrup and egg whites with ice. She then pours the mixture over cracked ice, and tops it with a Belgian Wit-style beer. The Belgian Wit adds fruity flavour and carbonation. Two refreshing summer cocktails in Routson’s repertoire are the Liquid Pie and the Honey Basil Beer Julep.
honey basil beer julep
Beata Szczypek, beer enthusiast and bartender at DeSottos Eatery in Toronto created seven signature beer cocktails for the Ontario Craft Brewers. Szczypek admits to having a good nose and sensitive palate and tries to complement or enhance the notes she finds in beer. “You’d probably know if I am creating a cocktail at DeSottos because I am usually going from liquor bottle to liquor bottle smelling the different notes, seeing if I can pair it with my nose first. There’s definitely a lot of trial and error with these drinks, and a lot of them get created, tasted and then tossed out,” she says.
Szczypek enjoys creating beer cocktails because they are “relatively unheard of” and the many different lagers and ales have very distinct flavours. As she says, “Using beer as a base and mixing in other beverages opens up a whole new world of other cocktails.” Her favourite beer cocktail to make is the Durham County’s Hyper Katt Martini. She also enjoys the Nickel Brook Spring Blossom, as it is the perfect patio drink.
durham county’s hyper katt martini
nickel brook spring blossom
The eight pubs operated by the Donnelly Group in Vancouver are heavily into craft beer from BC microbreweries. Beverage director Trevour Kallies was likely the first in Vancouver to create a drinks list dedicated to beer cocktails. Kallies took the title at the 2011 Craft of Cointreau bartending competition with a beer cocktail, the Orange Hop-sicle, blending Cointreau and Driftwood Brewing’s Fat Tug IPA. As Kallies says, “Everyone else was doing variations on White Ladies and Margaritas, and I took it in quite a different direction. My cocktail only had four ingredients in it and was really well received by the judges because I was able to use all of the complexity and flavour from the Driftwood IPA to really pop out in the cocktail.” The Cointreau cocktail had only three ounces of beer in it.
Kallies starts with a product he wants to work with and decides which part of the beer or spirit he wants to emphasize, being mindful of balance. “If you’ve got a really hoppy beer, you want to bring out bright floral notes, and a lot of citrus; and if you’re dealing with a more malty beer, like a malty ale or an English bitter, you’ll probably lean a bit more towards things like bourbon or whisky or scotch. I’ve got a couple of cocktails that I make with Guinness where I try to use Irish whiskey as the flavour add-on for the appellation of origin. Guinness works just as well with tequila if you can balance it out properly,” he explains. Here are two successful beer cocktails Kallies has played with.