Sometimes you feel like a cold one. Sometimes you feel like a cocktail. And sometimes you'd like to have both at once.
Meet the beertail.
The concept of a hopped-up libation isn’t new. For years, patrons have been enjoying the michelada, a Mexican beer cocktail featuring hot sauces for an added kick. Then there's the shandy, or “shandygaff,” an English drink that brings beer and lemonade together for a tangy twist.
Despite its lengthy history, mixing beer and liquor still baffles some purists. Why would anyone taint a well-crafted lager?
“The growth of flavorful craft-brewed beer and the growth of premium spirits creates an environment that could encourage mixologists to experiment with beer cocktails,” explains Julia Herz, the publisher of CraftBeer.com and a craft beer program director at the Brewers Association.
“Some of those experiments could work, and others might not be the best use of the precious resource of craft-brewed beer from small U.S. producers,” she says.
But while an ice-cold beer — on its own — is certainly welcoming, it could also be too filling for social drinkers just starting their night. For bartenders looking to mix things up, adding beer to a glass of floral liqueur, icy gin or even smooth bourbon can enhance its flavors, leaving patrons satisfied and ordering more.
It’s no wonder beer cocktails are popping up in drink menus throughout the country.
“The creation of cocktails is a creative pursuit based on a foundation of classics,” says Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at the Brooklyn Brewery. “It’s completely natural that mixologists will keep exploring for new flavors, and beer offers many flavors that aren’t available in other beverages.”
However, not everyone is celebrating. Some brewers are wary of having their laborious efforts become diluted with other spirits.
“As a brewer, I hate to see people mixing ingredients with a beer that I worked so hard to make as delicious as possible,” says Max Lachowyn, the head brewer of The Actual Brewing Company who prefers “beer as beer.” However, he also admits that, “in the end, it is still an honor to have people enjoy my creation no matter what form it is.”
“I’m not a huge fan of beer cocktails myself, but I can understand their popularity,” also says Renée M. DeLuca, whose father founded the New Albion Brewing Company. “I don’t mind the occasional beer cocktail for something novel, but I’m more of a craft beer purist. I just prefer it in its intended form.”
When it comes to cocktails, is seems like the question still remains: To beer or not to beer? Chris Gallant, co-founder of Bronx Brewery, who prefers his beer “from the tap with nothing else added,” still believes they’re worth a shot (or two).
“I think they are absolutely worth trying,” says Gallant. “By creating a beer cocktail, you can pull different flavors and aromas from the beer than you would normally experience.”
For those feeling daring, check out some noteworthy beertails below: