Many beer enthusiasts, like oenophiles and Scotch lovers, believe in the purity of their drink and don't welcome dilutions. Let them live in their gated communities. More open minds, and palates, recognize the simple pleasures of a Black and Tan (combining stout/porter and lager/ale) and a Snakebite (hard cider and lager). The whole is greater than the sum of its parts in each of these cases. The union of flavor begets a wholly original taste sensation.
This has not been lost on better bartenders, who have been experimenting with beer in recent years. In addition to making the aforementioned classics, they're going to beer for effervescence, much like cocktails calling for a touch of Champagne or ginger ale. For this roundup, we chose to focus on beer-forward beverages that prove the stubborn purists wrong. The following drinks include some oldies-but-goodies, a few reinterpretations, and a couple of brand-new cocktails created by the nation's top mixologists. Hoppy days are here again.
- Party Snack Pairing: Chili-Lime Tortilla Triangles
Both cocktail and chips feature lime, spiciness, and salt. The crispness of the chips offers a textural counterpoint.
- Entrée Pairing: Chicken Cheddar Quesadillas with Corn Salsa
The hot salsa and chili powder in the dish match the drink's heat; the beer stands up to the strong cilantro, cumin, onion, and cheese flavors.
Popular in the U.K., where it's also known as a Shandygaff, this drink mixes equal parts beer with either ginger ale, ginger beer, or carbonated lemonade (some folks even use Sprite or alcoholic sodas like Smirnoff Ice and Mike's Hard Lemonade). If the drink has multiple sources of alcohol, it's called a TurboShandy. In the following recipe from Gourmet, fresh lemonade and mint are used instead of bottled products.
- Side Dish Pairing: Spicy Sesame Noodle, Green Bean, and Carrot Salad
The light, lemony shandy pairs perfectly with spicy food. Try it with any hot Asian dish, such as this noodle salad.
- Entrée Pairing: Peruvian Grilled Chicken
The lemonade in the shandy makes it a go-to choice for barbecues; the chicken recipe can be prepared year-round.
Bartender Gina Chersevani developed this cheeky beer cocktail as a "cure" for the economic recession: It sells for the discounted price of $5 on her menu at PS 7's in Washington, DC. It combines a light, value-priced beer such as Miller High Life with a splash of juice and ginger liqueur.
- Game Day Pairing: Buffalo Chicken Wings
Light beer and lemon will take the heat off these classic chicken wings.
- Sandwich Pairing: Monte Cristo Sandwiches
The ginger in the drink is spicy like the mustard in the recipe and holds its own against the smoky meats in the sandwich.
- Dinner Pairing: Fish and Chips
Kehagiaras designed this cocktail to be a dessert drink, but the weight and flavor of the stout will also stand up to the salt and oil of fish and chips.
- Dessert Pairing: Chocolate Bread Pudding with Irish Cream Sauce
Pairing a chocolate dessert with a chocolate dessert cocktail may seem like too much, but that's never stopped any chocoholics we know.
Camper English is a freelance cocktails and spirits writer for publications including the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, and Imbibe Magazine, and is the publisher of Alcademics.com.