With 1,371 microbreweries in the United States making premium, handmade, and exotic brews, beer is moving up the social ladder. Creative bartenders are coming up with new ways to mix it with liquor, liqueurs, and fruit juices to create beer cocktails—or beertails.
The beertail isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. For instance, the shandy, a mix of beer and lemonade, dates back to the 1600s and has remained popular in British Commonwealth countries. In Germany a shandy is known as a Radler and in Spain as a Clara. In the Caribbean islands, shandies are made with fiery ginger beer.
The French version of shandy is called panaché, made with two-thirds beer and one-third lemon-flavored soda, called limonade. “A dash of grenadine makes it a Tongo panaché,” says Olivier Calmant, a Parisian bartender who makes them at the Vespaio restaurant and bar in Austin, Texas. “In France they give this to little kids at parties, but with more limonade than beer,” Calmant explains. “It can also be made with mint syrup instead of grenadine.”
Beertails inspired by British pubs include the black and tan, a mix of ale and stout, and the snakebite, a mix of hard apple cider and stout. The bloody bull (also known as a red eye or tomato beer) is half beer and half tomato juice, best enjoyed as a hair-of-the-dog remedy. Special occasions call for a black velvet stout and half champagne.
In Mexico, adding a squeeze of fresh lime—and perhaps a dash of salt—to Mexican lagers is a longstanding tradition; the same taste for salty-sour flavors has spawned a more elaborate beertail, the michelada. Usually it’s a lager seasoned with a healthy dose of fresh lime juice, served over ice in a salt-rimmed tall glass. Variations are common: Mexico City bars feature Cubanas, micheladas spiced up with Tabasco and Worcestershire.
The same taste for salty-sour flavors has spawned a more elaborate beertail, the michelada.
Another Mexican cantina staple—not yet quite as popular in the United States—is the Clamato con cerveza, a tall glass rimmed with spicy salt; half filled with spiced clam-and-tomato juice, lime juice, and ice; and topped with beer. It can be enjoyed with a shot of quality tequila—on the side, or added directly to the beertail.
Cafe d’Alsace in New York caters to beer connoisseurs, and has an in-house beer sommelier for food pairing and recommendations. Its signature beertail is the Griotte et Citron, made with kirsch, Heering cherry liqueur, fresh lemon, brandied cherries, and Lindemans Kriek, a Belgian lambic beer flavored with cherries.
And there’s plenty of room for experimentation. A mix of lager with a shot of fruit liqueur or fruit-flavored lambic would make for great summer quaffing. A shot of tawny port in a pint of coffee stout would be a lovely drink in the fall. And there’s always room for experimentation. Tamir Ben-Shalom, bar manager at Fonda Solana in Albany, California, which features six beer cocktails on its menu, recommends beginning with a lighter beer, like a lager, then adding something acidic, as in the classic michelada. Don’t shy away from the hard stuff, either. Fonda Solana’s jugador includes half a shot of Bombay gin.