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On Beer Cocktails

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The skepticism attached to beer cocktails can be summarized with one question: Who has ever walked into a bar and in that moment when he can choose anything said, “barkeep, what beer cocktails can you make me?” Sure, okay. If that’s the situation you want to envision the outcome will almost always be a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, a two-ingredient mixed drink, or maybe a selection from the menu of classic cocktails. Personally, I like beer cocktails – my cookbook has a chapter of recipes to make them – and I would like to see them made more often, but I will admit that I don’t know how popular they actually are.

So, when the folks at McClelland Premium Imports invited me to a beer cocktail session at the Miller Tavern with Rob Montgomery I attended with an open but skeptical mind.

Montgomery finishes a weissbier mojito.

Montgomery finishes a weissbier mojito.

As Montgomery took us through a selection of six purpose-built cocktail recipes – each featuring a different beer from the McClelland portfolio – he was sure to refer back to his cocktail bull’s-eye. It states that every creation, especially punches, should have one each of strong, weak, sour, and sweet. Here was the first glimmer of hope: except maybe strong beer is capable of playing all of these roles.

I was a bit surprised to find that I liked four of the six recipes in concept and execution. The oddball among this subset, called Horses for Courses, made an intriguing pairing of malty, slightly sweet Palm Amber ale and Trader Vic’s chestnut liqueur. It’s the kind of mixed drink that would only feel right inside on a stormy October afternoon or as a nightcap at a late-summer bonfire.

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Hockey trophy sized punch bowl is, sadly, optional.

The other hits for me, The Salzburg Summer, The Bavarian Mojito, and Garden Party Punch, fit more comfortably into the sociable punch category. In the Mojito the distinctive ester notes from the Erdinger Weissbier do a nice job of filling in the flavour profile before the mint and lime take over on the finish. By contrast, the citrus, ice and (especially) the sparkling wine dries the Fruli out so that the Garden Party tastes lightly of strawberries and not at all of syrup.

Best of all, Stiegl’s Grapefruit Radler gives an added zest and very slightly bitter dryness to the Pimms-and-fruit-combination in The Salzburg Summer. It’s complete recipe is below.

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The Salzburg Summer

(Created by Rob Montgomery, Miller Tavern)

  • 60 ml Pimm’s No. 1
  • 1 500 ml can Stiegl Grapefruit Radler
  • 1 TB diced cucumber
  • 1 TB diced straberries
  1. Combine in a tall glass with ice.
  2. Top with Stiegl Grapefruit Radler and stir to mix.
  3. Garnish with mint sprigs and staws.

Maybe cocktails built around beer just aren’t suited to the type of serious drinking that happens alone or in pairs and calls for stronger stuff. From Montgomery’s recipes it seems that there is a stronger case for beer punches that make it easy for a host to replace the cumbersome “what would you like to drink?” with “have one of these and let me know when you’re ready for another.”

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