The idea of the beer cocktail is nothing short of magical. Delicious, refreshing, and oft-fizzy, beer cocktails are great at brunch, dinner, and deep into the night. That’s right – you can drink beer cocktails steadily throughout the day. Why? Because they’re lower in alcohol than your typical drink, so you can toss back quite a few and not worry about a state of total incapacitation. While there are classic beer cocktails like the Michelada and um, the Sake Bomb (we use the word ‘classic’ loosely), there’s never been a better time to get creative about how you mix your beer.
With the craft beer industry booming, you have myriad flavors and textures to choose from. The wonderful thing about uniquely flavored beers is that they combine several aspects of a cocktail into one product. For instance, a cocktail usually has a base texture/taste (typically in the form of a spirit: i.e. whiskey), and secondary flavors (like juices, liqueurs or bitters, i.e. orange juice). Beers can offer both without tasting too “flavored.” When it comes to making beer cocktails, you want to choose a beer that has enough flavor to stand up to other ingredients (even hard liquor) while still having versatile mixability. We’ve curated a list of brews that – while great on their own – are perfect for a round of mixed drinks. Whiskey lovers are welcome.
1. Brouwerij Van Steenberge’s Gulden Draak
This Belgian triple ale has a thick, rich texture similar to a full bodied bourbon or Irish whiskey. Relatively boozy with an ABV of 10.5%, Gulden Draak has exceptional complexity. If you know anyone who doesn’t think beer can be sophisticated, hit ’em with a pint of Gulden Draak. Don’t actually hit them, though, that would waste the beer. Anyway, with its toffee and molasses sweetness and gentle maltiness, this is a great beer to serve with a dash of sweet vermouth, nutty bitters, or fresh mint. Cheat on your favorite bourbons and blend Gulden Draak into a cocktail where you normally would use a more viscous, gentle whiskey. And of course, have Belgian chocolates ready.
2. Commons Brewery’s Fleur de Ferme BEST OVERALL
Made in Oregon at the Commons Brewery, Fleur de Ferme is delightfully floral without being overly delicate. That’s because this farmhouse ale is dark, but has a crisp texture that will appeal to those of us who love French 75’s and (special) vodka sodas. Lavender, hibiscus, and the tiniest hint of chocolate make this a very special beer you could serve chilling in an ice bucket like you might a bottle of good wine. However, this beer will truly shine where a floral gin would in a cocktail. Mix Fleur de Ferme with rose syrups, dry vermouth, creme de cacao, and lemon. We’d avoid berries or too much fruit, as this beer errs more on the side of sweet-floral rather than sweet-fruity.
3. Founders’ Rübæus BEST ON A BUDGET
Are you a fan of sweet cocktails like the Cosmopolitan or the Blood & Sand? Then you need to try your hand at using Rübæus in a cocktail. This beer is packs in a ton of raspberry sugar – almost like a lambic style beer might – but it doesn’t overdo it with jolly rancher flavor. Instead, you’ll taste the luscious raspberries of your dreams. If you want to keep your cocktail on one distinct flavor path, try mixing Rübæus with triple sec and sweeter vodka. If you want your drink to play up taste contrasts, mix this bright red beauty with a little peated Scotch. A case will set you back around $12.
4. Dogfish Head’s Aprihop
Behold! An IPA that will make IPA haters want to start mixing IPA into all of their drinks! Aprihop is fantastically flexible while still maintaining a unique, jam-fruit flavor that’s amazing year round despite being seasonal.With its alluring aromas and beautiful color, Aprihop in a cocktail is something you’ll want to sip while sunning by the pool. But be aware: while fruity, this is not at all a sweet beer. You can enhance Aprihop’s hoppy characteristics and mix it with herbal liqueurs or spices, or show of Aprihop’s fruity side and swirl in some sharp Calvados or prune juice. Aprihop would also be a great addition to spiked sweet tea or lemonade.
5. William Bros. Brewing Co.’s Alba Scots Pine Ale
This beer is similar to gin. As is the case with dryer, more traditional gins, Williams Bros. Brewing Co.’s Alba Scots Pine Ale is, well, piney. You can incorporate more vegetal aspects into this herbaceous beer, so we’d experiment with olive brine, basil, and fernet. Because this is a beer that does well at warmer temperatures, try drinking your Pine Ale cocktail in a lowball with one large cube of ice as opposed to shaking it or serving it over crushed ice. This kind of cocktail would be great with a light dinner of seafood or small plates.
6. Millstone’s Hopvine
Some beers are great, and some are interesting. It’s our pleasure to tell you Hopvine is both. It’s full of tastes that are almost one thing but then completely pivot into another. For instance, Hopvine is dry, but just as you’re swallowing it, you taste a touch of honey, it’s sweet. It’s hopped, but not hoppy. Easy, but not boring. We’d liken Millstone’s Hopvine to something you’d sip while touring an old brewery. It tastes ancient, like a recipe passed down for generations. That said, it has enough room in its flavor profile to be combined with other ingredients. We’d go for anything with honey, a little dry gin or aquavit. Hopvine could also tango nicely with absinthe or ouzo.
7. Stone Brewing’s Chai-Spiced Russian Imperial Stout
Silky, spicy, and assertive – you might not think of “chai” (or whatever that word has come to mean) as a cocktail flavor, but it’s actually great because it has both layered spiciness and understated sugar. This stout from Stone Brewing captures chai’s essence and magnifies it tenfold. The creaminess in this beer makes it the perfect companion for coffee and espresso cocktails. When it comes to classic Irish cream cocktails, forget Bailey’s and use this chai stout instead.