Something new is on tap on the bar scene as adventurous mixologists brew up beer cocktails.
Beer as an ingredient can offer such a wide variety of flavors, says Jacob Grier, a drinks blogger who tends bar at Metrovino in Portland, Ore. They can be sweet and malty. They can have chocolate roast-y notes. It can be a great complement to a cocktail.
For most people, beer and liquor have never been more than nodding acquaintances.
Sure, maybe youve had a shot with a beer chaser here, or, in more reckless moments, a boilermaker in which the shot glass of liquor is dropped directly into the pint of beer.
But the new trend goes far beyond that, with mixologists looking for creative new ways to blend beer and booze.
Grier was introduced to the beer cocktail after watching Canadian beer writer Stephen Beaumont concoct some at a cocktail event a few years ago.
Beaumont got his inspiration from northern France, where he says beer cocktails are surprisingly common. Once I tried a couple over there, I just had to give making my own creations a shot, he said in an e-mail.
He sees beer cocktails falling into three categories beer blends; beer mixed with something else, such as juice, spirits or other flavoring ingredients; or beer used as a flavoring ingredient in a cocktail.
When mixing beers with spirits, its important to look for harmony, like the fruitiness of rums and most IPAs, or the aromatics of some blonde ales and gins, says Beaumont.
Grier finds gin and herbal flavors work really well because they have the aromatics to stand up to beer.
Grier, along with Yetta Vorobik, owner of The Hop and Vine beer bar in Portland and Ezra Johnson-Greenough, who runs The New School beer blog, have organized two Brewing Up Cocktails events and have more planned.
One of his favorite recipes was the brewers bramble, a twist on the bramble cocktail that used a tart beer instead of lemon juice and syrup. The drink was made with gin, blackberry liqueur and The Bruerys Hottenroth Berliner Weisse, though many sour beers would work.
One of Beaumonts creations is the green devil, which uses absinthe, gin and Duvel, a Belgian beer. Id been wanting to build a cocktail around Duvel for some time. Then, while preparing dinner one night, inspiration struck, he says.
Sheamus Feeley, executive chef of Farmstead Restaurant in the Napa Valley, has been drinking beer cocktails for a while.
He recently returned from duck hunting with friends and made bloody bulls beef stock, bloody mary mix and some light beer.
Some customers react with, Whats a beer cocktail? but the concept is becoming more common, says Feeley. We can use beer as a carrier to add complexity, depth, effervescence and a lightness that doesnt knock you down.
Grier is seeing beer cocktails pop up in more places.
I predict its going to be a big thing for 2011, he says.