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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Beer Cocktails. Only nice.


I've never been a fan of beer cocktails.

When we have people round for parties I often make a cocktail for the start of the evening and have a few recipe books. I like the idea of beer cocktails, but when I check the books that have sections on these they tend to be creations that I wouldn't describe as cocktails necessarily, but as the horrible mixtures we used to drink as students when we wanted to get throwing-up pissed as quickly as possible. Whereas rum, vodka and gin-based cocktails reek of sophistication (until you stray too far into paper umbrella territory), depth charges, boilermakers and other shooter combos smell only of stale vomit, and a black and tan doesn't really count as a cocktail at all.

So I had to go to Belgium overnight last week (Joe S - I would have called, but I was with clients and we had about one hour spare to devote to bars) and we were staying in the Sofitel in Brussels, a posh business hotel that manages to be just about as classy as it thinks it is - a rare thing indeed on the kinds of business trips I take these days.

And on the menu they had a section of beer cocktails, and they looked... interesting at least.

'Mojikriek' was - yep, you guessed it - a Mojito made with kriek, as well as rum, lime, mint and sugar.

'Coro Island' was tequila, lime, blue Curacao and Corona.

'Captain Leffe' was old rum, caramel syrup, strawberry syrup, and Leffe.

Each was served in a tumbler, shaken and poured over ice. I was on the detox, but then again, I was in Belgium. So between us, we decided to give each a try.

The Captain Leffe was not to my personal taste, but was probably the most successful as a cocktail revolving around beer as a main ingredient. You got a gorgeous, deep, caramel hit first, followed by a touch of citric sourness and then a lingering, drying, toffee-infused bitter finish. In other words, it was the sum of its parts - very tasty, but a little sweet for my palate.

I preferred the Mojikriek as a drink, although there was little beery character to it - just a faint, gentle dryness at the end of a cavalcade of candy sweetness and citrus acidity, taking it down to a lingering dry, candy fruit that reminded me of fruit pastilles.

And the Corona one was fucking horrible - I swear I could taste the lightstruck skunking even through the syrupy layers of the other ingredients.

Overall though, quite inspiring, albeit with no outright divine revelation. I get the sense that there is an amazing beer cocktail out there somewhere, that has a beery character to it and yet looks, tastes and feels like a 'proper' cocktail (ie something flavourful to be served in hotel bars in small glasses over ice, and sipped slowly between handfuls of those posh nuts that seem to have been coated in varnish that no one ever, ever asks for but gets given anyway and eats without quite knowing why). If anyone knows any other good beer cocktails along these sorts of lines, I'd love to hear them.

16 comments:

Sentimental Fool said...

How about a beer shandy - that great and refreshing summertime drink. Equal measures of chilled lager and chilled lemonade. Admittedly a working glass drink rather than one of your 'proper' cocktails but it should make it to any list of beer cocktails.

A Snakebite with a dash of blackcurrant cordial is another drink that comes to mind. Consumed in copious amounts while we were students in Glasgow because the rumour was that a couple of pints can knock one senseless. The fact that mot pubs refused to serve it and deemed it 'illegal' only added to the excitement. Tried it again one hot summers day years later and it was quite refreshing. The sometimes overpowering sweetness of the blackcurrant prevents it from becoming a sessions drink; it is more of a cocktail. And I really wouldn't mind if it came in small glasses over ice with handfuls of those varnished posh nuts of yours!!

Cooking Lager said...

I believe the cocktail was invented to disguise the taste of bathtub gin.

Is this to with disguising the taste of pongy ale?

The Beer Nut said...

I'd never noticed the strapline of Cocktail before. How cheesily wonderful.

CarsmileSteve said...

much as i love a good shandy i'm pretty certain you need three ingredients to make a cocktail.

also [proper pedantry alert] snakebite and black is illegal if served in a pint-to-rim glass as it must contain a non-standard measure of either cider or lager to fit the blackcurrant in ;)

Semi Dweller said...

When living in Belgium the notion of the beer cocktail wormed its way into the three rules of Belgian drinking i.e.

1. The small cubes of cheese you get with beer do not constitute dinner
2. The last bar you decide to go to is probably a mistake
3. Belgian beer is perfectly good all by itself, you don't need to pour evil spirits into them and set fire to the concoction

Predictably it was the sort of bars in rule 2 that usually would sell the drinks mentioned in rule 3...

Alan said...

Isn't the problem with those drinks that the flavours are added to mask the beer? The things that make a beer wonderful are often quite subtle. But there are a few beer based drinks that succeed where and because the additions are quite minor. Strong stout with a little port was one that Mr. Beaumont slapped the back of my head with when I screwed up my face at all beer cocktails. My recent experiment with mulled brown ale and dubbel was quite good but only because of the light touch with the supplemental spices and dried apple.

Woolpack Dave said...

CarsmileSteve I believe that if a barman were to mix any liquor with any two other ingredients other than water then he is no longer obliged to serve in legal measures.

Cocktails do not need to contain any legal measures.

I'd need to check Trading Standards to be sure, but I'm 99% certain on this one.

Cooking Lager said...

As you are not serving a pint of beer with blackcurrent, but a drink called "a pint of smakebite", the measure is just that, a pint of snakebite.

Snakebite can have any portion of beer to cordial you like.

Same with shandy. A pint of shandy does not have to contain half a pint of beer. It can contain more or less. However if a customer asks for a shandy made with half a beer then he is asking for a half pint and must receive it.

reetgoodleeds said...

Pin Bar in Leeds (owned by our very own Leeds Brewery) do a range of beer cocktails (you can see the list at http://www.pinleeds.co.uk/ if you go to drinks, then cocktails.

I've had the Hells Bell and it's quite nice if you like sweet, chocolately drinks (I don't really). The rest, I can't yet comment upon.

Maybe I should try the lot and write about it.

Mark, Real-Ale-Reviews.com said...

PIN in Leeds owned by Leeds Brewery) do beer cocktails. I'll dig out the menu...

I actually own Cocktail on VHS. It was worth the 99p just for the deep and enlightening conversation that Tom Cruise has with Elisabeth Shue over flugle binders.

BLTP said...

Not sure about more than 3 drinks in cocktail rule as this would mean a Martini isn't a cocktail.
I had a Black Maria recently ie shot of tia maria in the top inch of a pint of the black stuff which wasn't too bad.
Sorry but I always love pointing out that Tia Maria means "Aunty Mary" in spanish see also Tio pepe...

Matthew said...

Does a cocktail need a spirit ? If not then "The mother in Law" Half a pint Old ale and half best bitter.

Ben said...

Here in Texas there is at least one common drink that fits your bill, the Michelada. The basic recipe is beer with lime juice, spices and hot sauce. Often clamato is added. Tequila can be, but not very often. Its simmilar to a Bloody Mary, but with the beer replacing the tomato and spirits. The beer can be either light mexcan lager or Negra Modelo.

Also, many people use a beer or two in their margarita recipes to lighten the beverage and give it some fizz.

Kristy BitterSweet said...

Hi Pete - great to see you trying beer cocktails,you know it's something I'm a BIG fan of!!

One thing that we've found at BitterSweet Partnership is that beer cocktails, served properly like you say, are a great way of introducing women to beer who might normally reject it.

Far from masking the flavour of beer Cookie, one thing I think a great beer cocktail can do is showcase the rich diversity of beer styles and flavours to people that think 'all beer tastes the same'

We add new cocktail recipes all the time so why not try some out http://www.bittersweetpartnership.com/experiment/

Would love to know what you think!!

Stephen Beaumont said...

For better or worse, I can claim authorship of a bunch of beer cocktails, including this one:

Compass Box Cocktail
In an iced shaker, pour 1 ounce Compass Box Peat Monster (or other highly peaty malt whisky), 3 ounces of Imperial stout and 3 shakes of Angostura Bitters. Stir gently and serve in a chilled martini glass, garnished with an orange twist.

I might note this was before BrewDog developed their Paradox or Harviestoun came up with Ola Dubh.

Candice Alstrom said...

If you want to talk to a serious beer cocktail creator, you should contact a man by the name of Jackson Cannon from an amazing restaurant called Eastern Standard in Boston. He will downplay his efforts, but he is fantastic at creating amazing beer cocktails.