Let me start by saying that when I heard people talk about beer cocktails for the first time I dismissed the idea. At some point along the line we've all probably had a boiler maker or a sake bomb; I'm sad to say now that I allowed those drinks to cloud my judgement. Looking back it was the same type of thinking that makes people say "I don't like beer," when what they actually didn't like was the one crappy light beer they tried. While at Park for a friend's birthday party I began perusing the menu looking for a drink. I looked over the beer menu, which had no shortage of great craft beer offerings, and moved on to the cocktails section. Suddenly one drink caught my eye, the Tom Terrific. Aside from craft beer I'm a huge fan of good gin; this cocktail combined Old Tom Gin, lemon juice, cherry heering, simple and...wait what's that...IPA. All the ideas about beer cocktails not working left my head, I placed the order and since I'm writing this article I think you can guess what happened next. I loved it. The beer added an amazing bitterness to the drink while adding just a bit of fizz to brighten things up.
Fast forward a month or two and I was back at Park. I'd since become a huge fan of pretty much everything they do but, on this particular night, I was on a bit of a mission. I heard from Chris Lohring, the owner/brewer of Notch Brewing, that there was a bit of a secret beer cocktail menu. I sat at the bar with my friend Brian and asked our bartender if there were any more beer cocktails. The short but all important answer I got was simply, "Lots...what do you like?" A number of incredibly tasty cocktails later I knew we had to let more people know about this. A couple weeks later we went back before hours and met up with Chris Olds (pictured below), the bar manager at Park, who put together five amazing beer cocktails. Not only that, but he was kind enough to share the recipes with us so that we could share them with all of you. At this point we'd recommend you do three things:
- Read the rest of this article
- Go to Park if you live near Cambridge, MA and order one or many of these awesome off-menu craft beer cocktails. Be sure to order them by name.
- Make some of these at home and come up with some of you own. Embrace the awesomeness that is craft beer cocktails.
Now without further ado, on to the good stuff!
1 1/2 oz Hayman's Old Tom Gin
1/2 oz Simply Syrup
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Cherry Heering
Slumbrew Flagraiser IPA
Shake all the ingredients excluding Slumbrew IPA with ice. Then, strain and pour over cubed ice in a highball glass. Top with beer.
As mentioned, this is the one that got it all started for us and got the craft beer cocktail program going for Park as well. Hops, gin and lemon...how could it possibly go wrong? The beer lends an awesome bitterness, especially given how little IPA is actually used. The cherry really rounds and smooths the whole thing out, as the gin and hops together might be a little sharp alone. It's not medicinal or cloying, but just a light, fruity flavor. The cherry works so well because of the carbonation from the beer; without it the drink may have been a little thick but those bubbles open it right up.
If you're not local and want make your own, just substitute any big, hoppy IPA and either an English gin or your local craft gin.
Victory at Sea
1 1/2 oz Privateer Rum
3/4 oz Lime Juice
Dash Lemon Bitters
3/4 oz Demerara (Simple syrup made with sugar in the raw)
Notch Brewing Saison
Shake all the ingredients excluding Notch Saison with ice. Then, strain and pour over cubed ice in a highball glass. Top with beer.
You'd think a drink with dark rum would be on the more warming end of the spectrum but, thanks to the citrus and saison, it's a bright and refreshing cocktail. Both the rum and beer are made in Ipswich, a coastal town on the North Shore of Massachusetts, and this is a great way to showcase some amazing local ingredients. The lemon is the first thing that hits you like a ray of sunshine in this below ground bar. While it's quite refreshing, like we mentioned above, the rum adds a wonderful smooth sweetness. This is a well rounded cocktail that will quiet any anti-beer cocktail folks.
If you're not local and want make your own, just substitute any lower alcohol saison and your local barrel aged craft rum.
1.5 oz Berkshire Distilling Ethereal Gin
3/4 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Aperol
1/2 oz St. Germain
High & Mighty Beer of the Gods
Shake all the ingredients excluding High & Mighty Beer of the Gods with ice. Then, strain and pour into a champagne glass. Top with beer.
This cocktail is a little sweet upfront but there's a good balancing bitterness in the finish. The acidity from the grapefruit juice is toned down by the gin and beer, but provides a very important bright note to the drink. There's a bit of fruit and flower up front, which makes this drink especially refreshing. This is one we kept coming back to again and again.
If you're not local and want make your own, just substitute any hoppy blond ale and your local craft gin...although Berkshire Distilling Ethereal Gin is a bit of a creative take on gin, so let us know how yours turns out.
1.5 oz A.H. Hirsch Small Batch Reserve Bourbon Whiskey
3/4 oz King's Ginger Liquor
Dash Jerry Thomas Bitters
Jack's Abby Smoke & Dagger
Shake all the ingredients excluding Jack's Abby Smoke & Dagger with ice. Then, strain and pour into a champagne saucer. Top with beer.
First off, if you like bourbon then you'll like this drink...and we love bourbon! The beer adds a great smokiness and a little roast. This concoction is a cocktail first by far, not just a beer drink! Between the beer and spirit, it's a little sweet but far from unbalanced. At the end, the ginger comes through and makes the drink complete. Up until now, these drinks were bright but this is a drink to smooth out the evening and warm yourself in cold or hot weather.
If you're not local and want make your own, just substitute a smoky, dark lager (or clean ale) and some great bourbon.
1 oz Liqueur Cassis
Portico Brewing Fuzzy Logic
Pour the Cassis into a champagne flute, then top with beer.
As Chris put it, "it's tough when every cocktail is, like, 75 ingredients." And sometimes simple is good! Start with a delicious base beer and add just a little bit of fruitiness from the Liqueur Cassis and you've got yourself a drink. The light Belgian esters of the Fuzzy Logic work great with the fruitiness, reduced by the addition of beer. If the Dabney Coleman is a cocktail first, the Tarantino is a beer drink first and that's just fine by us. Something like this shows us just how diverse this area can be!
If you're not local and want make your own, just find a local kölsch...you'll need this liqueur, but hopefully you can find it. That said, Portico uses a Belgian yeast strain in their kölsch, so yours will be a little different. But we're sure it'll still be tasty!
Now, let us know your favorite craft beer cocktails! Use the comments section below to tell us what concoctions you've enjoyed.