Beer cocktails are something with which I’ve always had a bit of a troubled relationship.
Presumably they’d be right up my alley given that I like both cocktails and beer, but when it comes to both those wondrous things, I’m something of a purist (a point I’ve touched on briefly once before). That is, I like cocktails of the old fashioned variety–both in name and in style–and when it comes to adding things to beer, I’m generally of the opinion that a good beer does just fine on its own thank you very much so put that fucking fruit down before I break your arm.
Accordingly, the concept of combining the two seemed to me like a surefire way to ruin two good things.
And so it was with some trepidation that I accepted an invitation recently to attend a showcase of beer cocktails hosted by Rob Montgomery, bartender at The Miller Tavern, wherein Rob would be unveiling the bar’s soon-to-debut-beer-cocktail menu incorporating beers from McClelland Premium Imports into his libations.
Alas my fears were put to rest rather quickly as we were presented with our welcome beverage: a garden party punch that incorporated dry sparkling wine, Früli strawberry wheat beer, and assorted citrus wheels. The stuff, to put it plainly, was tasty. The relative sweetness of Früli was balanced with the dry sparkling wine and the fruit added some tartness without any one flavour being overbearing. I knew that first beverage was a sign of good things to come and, when Rob explained how he had “Martha’d” a floral garnish by suspending edible flowers in the chunk of ice floating in the punch bowl, I knew there’d be some attention paid to detail.
As we worked our way through a tasting menu that included a take on the mojito that incorporated weissbier (recipe below), a shandy made with elderflower liquer and blonde abbey ale, and a delicious take on a Pimm’s cup that used Stiegl Grapefruit Radler it became clear: beer cocktails, as Martha herself might say, are a good thing.
They’re not beer, clearly, as nothing here stood out as distinctly “beery,” nor are they your traditional cocktails since the addition of beer here generally added something new to each take on the beverage. Instead, the beer cocktail works when the beverage brings something out in the beer you might otherwise miss; as it did in The Bavarian Mojito, which for me was the highlight of the night. By adding Erdinger Weissbier into the sweet, lime, minty concoction, Rob’s take on this drink pulls a lot of the underlying citrus and fizz (if I can be so bold as use “fizz” as a positive characteristic of a beer) that otherwise might go unappreciated in a glass of Erdinger.
The incorporation of beer in cocktails might not always work–indeed, I couldn’t find much to recommend in Rob’s “Horses for Courses” which combined chestnut liqueur, orange wedges and a bottle of PALM Amber Ale–but the good ones (as four of the five drinks I sampled that evening clearly were) pose a threat to neither beer nor cocktails and instead offer something unique that’s probably accessible to people who like beer and cocktails alike. Beer cocktails, I’m pleased to discover, are worth checking out.
If you want to check out some beer cocktails, Rob Montgomery’s beer cocktail menu featuring MPI beers will debut the first week of July at The Miller Tavern on Bay Street. Or if you prefer to do your drinking at home, why not give his Bavarian Mojito a whirl, using the recipe below?
3 thoughts on “Beer cocktails, delicious or blasphemous?”
It starts with a simple thing and next thing you know… I find that doctoring a beer sometimes works with drain pours. Much like bad wine is to sangria, beer can be made to be palatable (sometimes). Also, I wonder at the purist argument. Black and tan, small beer being fortified, gose or berliner weisse being flavoured, and butter beer have all existed for a long time more than most modern beer styles. Beer has probably been used as a base for ‘cocktails’ for a really long time.
Generally I don’t bother with them but I’m open to the idea. I just haven’t had a good beer cocktail yet.