I have listened to the pundits (such as they are in this industry) proclaiming they were coming to a bar near you. Beer cocktails. But aside from the ‘beer margaritas’ friends & family insist on making at every sports-related party, I had yet to encounter them in the wild. (No, I don’t count traditional items such as a Snakebite or Shandy.)
When a local watering hole completed a recent re-brand, re-model, and re-launch, I decided to stop in and check out the new vibe. On an unrelated note, the new décor is very well done, and I am impressed. A vast improvement over the original incarnation. I opened the menu, and on the first page, I saw not a few, but nineteen – yes, NINETEEN – versions of ‘beer cocktails’. I considered it a sign that the cocktail gods were imploring me to take this journey of discovery.
For the uninitiated, the general concept of a ‘beer cocktail’ involves a beer or cider (often something craft or local), the addition of some sort of mixer (often fruit juices), and sometimes a primary spirit as well. The results – as you might imagine – can be all over the map.
I sampled three.
As a general observation, I would say that for the most part these drinks lacked balance, and tended toward too sweet. I will allow that for many palates, this is not automatically a bad thing, as the worldwide proliferation and popularity of cloying concoctions clearly conveys. (My alliterative skills on display.) The presence of too much fruit juice, or sweet liqueurs, pushed these drinks into ‘one-note’ territory.
One of them, however, opened the door a crack, and indicated there may be some promise for the genre. A blend of a white ale, a reasonable amount of St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, and a dash of bitters (they did not indicate which kind), it was citrusy on the nose and front, with a pleasant floral flavor following. Slightly bitter at the finish, there was enough complexity, subtlety, and balance for me to conclude that such a thing as a ‘good beer cocktail’ may indeed exist!
A couple of housekeeping notes. First, from a purely economic standpoint, these drinks are a great value. Priced at (or sometimes below) the cost of a typical craft pint, the addition of primary spirits and other ingredients, coupled with the fact that they are all served in full (14-oz) beer glasses, means a lot of product for your dollar. Should you find a version you enjoy, then you are looking at a great addition to your regular rotation.
Second, they are relatively large drinks, and with the addition of primary spirits and liqueurs, consumers should keep in-mind that they can speed consumption, while possibly ‘fooling’ the patron via the similarity to a relatively low-alcohol pint of beer.
As always, caveat emptor and YMMV. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences.