Mixing it up with beer cocktails

Posted on September 18th, 2009

beerCoctailsAlthough they tend to get little respect in the craft beer scene, there are a number of beer cocktails out there beyond the Black & Tan that can be quite tasty and have their place in beer history. Today we’re going to mix it up and take a look at a few of those cocktails. As we reported in our article about porters, many years ago blending different beers together was actually fairly common, especially among the working class who would blend cheap, stale beer with a little bit of fresh brew to save money.

This is a practice that was continued with the Berliner Weisse style of wheat ale from Berlin. This once popular style waned in popularity for much of the 20th century until the craft beer movement of the 1990’s. It’s a tart, acidic beer, brewed with live strains of the bacterium Lactobacillus to give it a unique flavor, similar to other wild ales we’ve discussed before. To lessen the bite of these pucker inducing brews the people of Berlin have for a long time poured flavored syrup into their glasses, with raspberry being the most common taste.

GuinessHarpBlackandTanFor those unfamiliar with it, a Black & Tan is of course a beer cocktail of half Bass ale and half Guinness. So named because the colors resemble the uniforms of the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force, who were British counterrevolutionary paramilitary forces during the Irish War of Independence in the early part of the 20th century. The beverage gets its unique look from the fact that Guinness is less dense than many other beers and so floats on top of it, although generally a special spoon is used to ensure the beers don’t mix when pouring them.

Another beer cocktail of British origin is the Snakebite, traditionally a mixture of half hard cider, half pilsner and a splash of black currant juice. The drink is frequently enjoyed by university students in the UK, many of whom will tell you that the mixture of pilsner and cider (both beverages of fairly low alcoholic content) combine in special way to give the drink an exceptionally high alcohol percentage. Although I’ve yet to hear a scientific explanation for why that would happen, and it’s probably nothing but a school boy rumor, the fact remains that some pubs and other establishments in the UK will not serve the drink for fear of the rowdy behavior it can inspire.

A beer cocktail that’s a bit classier than the Snakebite is something called the Black Velvet, a mixture of Guinness and Champagne. Indeed, the Snakebite is even sometimes referred to as a “poor man’s Black Velvet.”

This of course is just the start to many different beer based cocktails that range from the Shandy, a half lemonade half pilsner designed to be a ultra low alcohol beer for new drinkers, to Citrona, a mixture of Corona and lemon flavored vodka designer to be extra strong. For a deeper dive into beer cocktails check out the beer cocktail entry on Wikipedia.

What do you think about beer cocktails? Do you have a favorite one of your own we didn’t cover? Are they a fun twist on old beers or just a distraction from enjoying a proper pint?  Next time you try one or any other beer you love, let us know by tweeting your beer and adding the ‘#mybeer’ hashtag.