Today is the first Friday of May, so it's time for The Session, beer blogging on a common topic. The hosts this month are Joe & Jasmine, at Beer at Joe's, and the topic is beer cocktails. Here's what they had to say about it: "What’s your favorite beer cocktail (and yes, despite the title of this post, it can be a black & tan* or a shandy)? Find a recipe for that or a new one, try it, and tell us why you did or didn’t like it–even if you think beer cocktails are nothing but a good way to waste a beer. Have fun and try something new!"
I've been drinking beer 'cocktails' for years, not long after I started drinking beer, actually. My first was a Berliner Weisse with a schuss of raspberry syrup, stirred with ice in a goblet, and it was wonderful: refreshing, not too sweet, cold, and very different from what I was used to back in 1983.
The next was a long line of black & tans* (also called half-n-halfs, checkerboards, mother-in-laws, and other...less printable names) at brewpubs, starting at the first brewpub I ever entered, the Front Street Pub, in Santa Cruz (sadly closed, but a seminal place for me: it was where I first had squid, shark, and oyster shooters, and where I first wrote about beer). I loved the mix of hoppy amber and dry/roasty stout or porter, and drank it often. The first time I saw the layered-look black and tans, with the nitro-stout floating on top of (usually) boring lager, I was amused, and disinterested. Then I got a layered black and tan in a yard of ale at Cambridge Brewing back in the early 1990s, and I changed my mind: layers good!
Since then I've mixed a lot of beers. We were mad for it in the mid-1990s, then slacked off a bit -- just bored, I think -- and now it's popping again, an echo of the cocktail craze, maybe. I suspect that's why, earlier this year, I was commissioned to write a piece on beer cocktails for a cooking magazine. We went through a number of recipes, and they finally settled on three: a beer with non-alcoholic mixers, beer with beer, and beer with spirits.
There were a couple of leftovers, recipes that they didn't particularly care for. Naturally enough, I thought they were pretty damned good, and I don't want them to go to waste...and the chances of selling another beer cocktail piece seem slim. Here they are. I enjoyed them, hope you do too. (And yes, Stephen, I even mixed liquor with my beer!)
Dry Season – Saison is a spicy, ‘farmhouse’ style of ale from Belgium that I thought might lend itself to the spicy botanicals of gin. I mixed a dry London gin with plenty of juniper (you can spend more, but Gordon’s is crisp and full of flavor) into a glass of saison (I had a bottle of Victory Saison, so I used that), and the result was a somewhat lighter, turbo-charged saison. Take 8 oz. chilled saison and 1 oz. dry London gin. Fill a red wine glass with ice and cold water to chill. Dump the ice and water, add the gin and swirl to coat the glass. Add the saison, pouring to splash. Inhale and enjoy.
Doppel Espresso – Doppelbocks are damned good stuff, and they're a beer wine drinkers can really understand: they aren’t bitter, they’re strong, and they can be either dry, or sweet like a dessert wine. But they also have a nice chocolatey character to them that can get overlooked. I thought some coffee might bring that chocolate out, and it does. A great after-dinner beer cocktail: coffee and dessert in one glass. Take 2 parts chilled doublebock (Spaten Optimator is good; I used the Pennsylvania-brewed Troegenator) and 1 part coffee beer (I used Flying Fish Imperial Espresso Porter; there are a variety of coffee beers available on the U.S. market; check your local brewpubs, too). Blend in one glass by pouring together. Simplicity and deliciousness.
*Before the inevitable "Black and Tan is offensive to the Irish!" comments come rolling in (and I won't allow them to post, so don't waste your time and mine)... The Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force, the British paramilitary group that quickly gained a reputation for brutality in the early 1920s in Ireland, became known as the "Black & Tans" because of their uniform colors, true enough. But "black and tan" as the name for a mix of a dark and lighter beer actually pre-dates that, going back into the 1800s. So stop being all Irish-American (like my wife and I are (descended out of Counties Wicklow and Antrim, respectively)) and in my face with it, and relax, and enjoy this delicious mixture for what it is: beer.