Beer, cocktails aren’t such strange bedfellows after all
Liquor history has made for strange marriages.
Worms in Tequila. Cucumbers in gin. Chinese-made paper umbrellas in rum.
Has the time come for beer in cocktails?
It was only a matter of time, of course, until the brew of the blue collar cohabitated with the whiskey of the white collar. After all, in the past half dozen years beer has been getting pretty uppity as an explosion of craft beer makers raised beer sipping to the level of wine tasting. Where once ordering a beer involved deciding between can, bottle or tap, today one best know one’s brown ale from one’s imperial porter; one’s pale ale from one’s blonde; and that wishing to partake in an IPA does not entail membership in an Important Person Association.
And yes, once the craft beer found itself running in the same social circles as the craft cocktail, it was only a matter of time until the two intermingled. While there have been some gimmicky beer cocktails over the years — the upturned beer bottle in a large margarita is a good example — the rising quality of craft beers has evolved into serious and socially acceptable libations.
As drink makers across the country are discovering, beer and cocktails really shouldn’t be such strange bedfellows. If one looks far enough back in the cocktail family closet, an early ancestor was the Purl, a primitive concoction of bitter herbs and beer. Thereafter came the Flip, a popular hot drink among sailors — albeit not exactly of yachtsmen stature — made with rum, beer, sugar and eggs.
Colonial Americans found the Flip quite to their liking, and early taverns created many versions and many names for them.
The argument for this new social acceptance is a strong one.
“I believe it’s the public’s acceptance and support of the many craft beer styles available,” said Mark Dell’Osso, Galveston Island Brewing owner and head brewer. “The diversity of flavors in everything from blondes to IPAs to Imperial Stouts has opened up a treasure trove of possible unique beer cocktails.”
And with Dell’Osso being a former tugboat captain, can’t he legally conduct marriages?
When one takes time to ponder all those rich flavors from the hops, the roasting and the malt and the carbonation, the come-on wink to the whiskey, rum or tequila becomes quite natural. The cocktails can be complex, with multiple ingredients, or quite simple.
“I like one that’s one-half Tiki Wheat, one-half Mike’s Hard Lemonade with an orange wedge garnish,” Dell’Osso said. “It’s easy to make, and with the unique richness of the wheat and coriander spice paired with the vodka and other flavors, it makes for a very refreshing drink.”
Galveston Island Brewing supplies the island’s Nick’s Kitchen and Beach Bar | Redfish Pool Bar with its Tiki Wheat Beer. Nick’s mixes the beer with Jose Cuervo and other ingredients to create a “Marga-Wheat-A.”
Citrus, fruit and floral elements are the most common bonds that make these marriages work. Success, too, comes from the right partners, meaning certain cocktails call for certain beers. A supporting family of bitters, juices, liqueurs and other ingredients give each drink personality.
One beer cocktail many are familiar with has the welcoming name of Irish Car Bomb, its trio of ingredients being Guinness stout, Baileys Irish Cream and Irish whiskey.
What other creations has this generation of beers and liquors given to the world? Rye whiskey and the Belgium Pêche Mel beer combined to beget the Rub & Rye, complete with a barbecue rub-coated rim. Bourbon took a roll in the glass with an English pale ale to produce Beggar’s Banquet. Guinness beer climbed to the very top of the social ladder to swirl with Champagne, giving birth to the Black Velvet. After a little tree shaking, pale ale and alcoholic apple cider welcomed in the Shandy. The love child of Tequila and light Mexican beer goes by the name of Lagerita. Ginger beer married spiced rum and welcomed the arrival of Hellfire.
Not all beer cocktails actually include other alcohol. With the definition of a cocktail simply being a mixture of ingredients — one of them being alcoholic — beer cocktails include an English favorite of ale and lemonade. There are beer Bloody Mary drinks in which stout beers replace the traditional Tequila or vodka.
In the Galveston area, home and hobby mixologists are hopping on the beer cocktail carriage, Dell’Osso said.
“They fill growlers of special brews we have only here at the brewery and take them home to use in all kinds of fun cocktail experiments,” he said.
One has to question whether these marriages will last or end up just another something one picked up in a bar.
“That’s a hard one to predict,” Dell’Osso said.
“I do know with the vast variety of well made and different craft beers from around the country right now, the options for fun experiments are endless,” he said. “With many of those experiments will come excellent beer cocktails that will likely stick around.”
And so, as the Titanic and the Great War did to the Edwardians, time is threatening to leave behind the stuffy cocktail class members who dare to snub the suds. One may know the intricacies of mixing the perfect, slightly dirty, gin martini, but expressing a loss at lager will not impress.
Fortunately, in one of Galveston’s most socially acceptable gathering spots, one can learn all about this cocktail interloper called beer, and come away the wiser for it.
“Craft Beer 101” is a two-night package offered to guests at the historic Tremont Hotel June 5-7. During the weekend stay, Dell’Osso will discuss what craft beer is, host a tasting, lead a tour of the brewery, show what goes into making beers and finally, present a variety of his beers at a four-course, seated beer dinner. The two-night package starts at $299 for two, per night. It includes the classes, tastings, tour and dinner along with valet parking. Space is limited. Call 409-763-0300 for reservations or visit www.TheTremontHouse.com.
One may then be well prepared for the day one’s beloved single malt is found in a bar with a hoppy lager.
Tiki Marga-Wheat-A at Nick’s
Courtesy of Nick Gaido, president of Nick’s Kitchen and Beach Bar | Redfish Pool Bar, 3802 Seawall Blvd. in Galveston
1.5 fluid ounces simple syrup
3 fluid ounces fresh lime juice
2 fluid ounces Jose Cuervo
½ fluid ounce Cointreau
1 cup ice cubes
10 fluid ounces Tiki Wheat Beer (brewed by Galveston Island Brewing).
One lime wedge
One orange wedge
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Combine sugar and water in a sauce pan. Place on low heat until sugar has dissolved. Chill simple syrup.
In a mixing glass, combine simple syrup, lime juice, Jose Cuervo, Cointreau and ice cubes. Close the mixing glass and shake for 10 seconds. Set aside.
Wipe a lime on the edge of your glass and dip in kosher salt to form the salt rim.
Pour 10 fluid ounces of Tiki Wheat Beer in the glass. Pour the margarita on top of the beer.
Garnish with a lime and orange wedge.