Americans love beer. It is the most frequently requested alcoholic beverage for men, and second only to white wine for women. So it would stand to reason that by now we’ve plumbed the depths on how to best market beer to our clientele. We already pour it into tall frosty mugs, what else is there? The fact is much more can be done.
“Blending different types of beers together has long been standard practice in English and Irish pubs,” says Steve Goumas, owner of Rula Bula Irish Pub in Tempe, Ariz. “Beer drinks, such as the Black & Tan and Half & Half, are extremely popular throughout Europe, Canada and Australia. They’re delicious concoctions that look as great as they taste. Actually marketing beer drinks is a creative and innovative way of stimulating sales.”
The artful skill of mixing beers together requires balancing the attributes of one brew with the characteristics of another. The key to success is using two beers with appreciably different properties — body, taste, texture, sweetness and bitterness.
A good example is the Black & Tan, a savory blend of stout and ale, typically Guinness and Bass draughts respectively. This memorable drink originated in England in 1919 and is named after the British constables who served in Ireland at the time. The Guinness Stout and Bass Ale have different densities, or specific gravities. The beers will layer on top of one another — the nearly black Guinness floating atop the copper-colored Bass — thereby creating a dramatic appearance. Hoist the combination and the heavier beer will slide along the angle of the glass so that both brews are consumed simultaneously. Set the glass down and the layers remain intact. The effect is captivating.
The venerable Half & Half is an equal mix of pilsner and bitter ale drafts. The light, dry lager smoothes the bitter edge of the ale, rendering the combination well-suited to American tastes. Another classic concoction is the Black Velvet, created in 1861 at the Brook’s Club in London. It’s a superb-tasting blend of Guinness draft and chilled Champagne. Substitute hard cider, such as Woodpecker, Strongbow, and Dry Blackthorn, for the Champagne to create a Black Velveteen. Mix hard cider with the ale or lager of your choice to make a Snake Bite.
If refreshing is what you’re after, consider the Shandy Gaff, a mix of beer and ginger ale. Substitute lemon-lime soda to make a Lemon Top, or float a jigger of Rose’s Lime Juice to make a Lager and Lime.
The American Entries
While beer drinks may have their origins abroad, American mixologists are starting to see the light. One such practitioner is Aaron DeFeo, beverage manager at Hotel Congress in Tucson, Ariz.
“We’ve had considerable success marketing beer drinks as house specialties,” he says. “It’s a creative way to work some fun into the mix. People love them. With our broad selection of microbrews, devising tempting combinations is something of a no-brainer.”
DeFeo features two beer-based specialties at his bars. Speech Therapy is a heat-resistant specialty made with Tanqueray Rangpur Gin, Velvet Falernum and fresh lime juice topped with Pilsner Urquell. There Goes the Barrio is a spicy variation of the Dark and Stormy. It features Milagro Silver Tequila, fresh lime juice, ginger syrup and a fill of Negra Modelo.
Whereas an Englishman devised the now-famous beer drink called the Dog’s Nose, a sedate blend of dry gin and ale, it undoubtedly was an American who first concocted the Bloody Bastard, a spicy mix of Bass Ale, horseradish and Bloody Mary mix with a peeled shrimp garnish. It’s more of a meal with an attitude. Add Stolichnaya Limonnaya and Pertsovka to make a Bloody Russian Bastard.
Also of American extraction is the Oyster Shooter, a superb combination of Tabasco, horseradish, draft beer and a raw oyster served in a chilled rocks glass. Another recipe guaranteed to heat things up is the Beer Buster, which features vodka, Tabasco and draft beer.
Rising in popularity is the Dr. Pepper, made by dropping a shot glass of amaretto into a mug of draft beer. Use equal parts of amaretto and 151-proof rum to make a Dr. Pepper From Hell. The Bumble Bee is a blend of Guinness Stout and honey lager or honey hefeweizen, while the Koala Bear is an equal mix of Guinness and Foster’s Lager.
The Rock ‘n’ Bock is made with equal parts of Rolling Rock and Shiner Double Bock, a dark, full-bodied beer brewed in Shiner, Texas. Another specialty to consider is the Purple Death, a blend of Bass Ale, Chambord and cider.
Experiment and create your own unique combinations, or consult the following beer recipes for inspiration. Tapping into beer’s enormous popularity is a dynamic and lucrative way to escape the ordinary. Recipes include:
Black & Tan
Ale or beer glass, chilled
1/2 fill draught Guinness
1/2 fill draught Bass Pale Ale
Beer glass, chilled
1⁄2 fill with Guinness Stout
1⁄2 fill with hard apple cider
Bucket or house specialty glass, ice
(Salted rim optional)
2 ounces Bass Ale
Fill with Bloody Mary mix
Add 1⁄2 tablespoon horseradish
Lime-wedge and peeled-shrimp garnish
Beer mug & shot glass, chilled
1 ounce Disaronno Amaretto
7 to 8 ounces draft beer
Fill shot glass with Amaretto and drop into beer.
Half & Half
Beer glass, chilled
1/2 fill with Bitter Ale
1/2 fill with Pilsner
Presentation shot glass, chilled
1 to 2 dashes Tabasco
1⁄2 teaspoon horseradish
2 to 3 ounces draft beer
1 raw oyster
Beer glass, chilled
1⁄2 fill with requested draft beer
Fill with ginger ale