Beer is in the midst of an identity crisis. The spread of “adjunctivitus”–adding multiple ingredients beyond the standard grains, hops, yeast, and water foursome–has resulted in stouts, IPAs, and their brethren morphing into flavor facsimiles of everything from pastries to pizza. Coupled with the ever-popular trend of spirit barrel aging, it’s no surprise that beers modeled after cocktails are among the most successful of these innovative hybrids. While they don’t actually contain any hard booze (a legal no-no for brewers), the growing number of beers that take a cue from mixed drinks are worthy alternatives to their inspirations, delivering on flavor at a fraction of the alcohol content. No need to shake or stir; simply open, pour, and imbibe.
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Otra Vez, a tart German gose by way of Mexico (thanks to the addition of lime and agave) has finally gone full margarita. A few months in reposado barrels gives this easy drinker some oomph starting with a potent tequila aroma. One sip and it becomes clear that the pronounced barrel presence is a welcome addition to the sharp citrus and lightly-salted base beer. Lime-A-Rita this is not.
You don’t need to be a fan of thunderstorms and late-night lovemaking to enjoy this tropical delight courtesy of southern Florida’s Funky Buddha. Nicaraguan rum barrels liven up the brewery’s cream ale with hints of spice and molasses. The final touch of coconut and pineapple is the sweet and tangy icing on the cake. The only thing that’s missing is a tiny paper umbrella.
Old school cocktail aficionados will rejoice over this homage to the Ramos Gin Fizz, that underappreciated N’awlins citrusy sparkler. Imperial Cabinet, a joint effort between Bruery Terreux and fellow sour beer maestros Jester King, combines an American wild ale with lemon, lime, and orange along with an assortment of botanicals to gin things up–purists should note the breweries wisely elected to bypass the cocktail’s use of egg whites. A few months of wine barrel-aging provides an added layer of dry, fruity complexity. As for the name Imperial Cabinet, it’s actually a reference to the bar where Henry C. Ramos concocted his signature libation.
Thirsting for a green beer alternative on St. Patrick’s Day? You’re in luck. Minnesota’s Lift Bridge hits all the familiar notes of a boozy, creamy mug of Irish coffee via a tag team of whiskey barrel-aged imperial stout and a lactose-kissed milk stout. The addition of coffee beans, courtesy of local Minneapolis roasters Five Watt, successfully amplifies the roastiness and slight bitterness provided by the stout duo without overpowering the beer.
Northeast coast and Northwest coast collide with Portland-based Cascade’s funky take on the classic Manhattan. Not surprisingly, the self-proclaimed “house of sour” blends two sour ales–a quad and a blond–and ages both in bourbon barrels. The addition of apricot noyaux (the French word for the kernels found in the pits of stone fruit) offers a welcome stand-in for bitters while sour pie cherries fill the role of the cocktail’s signature garnish.
Plan Bee always relishes the opportunity to take advantage of anything and everything that grows in their bucolic Hudson Valley environs. Bloody is perhaps the best representation of that ethos, fusing a sour ale with a cornucopia of farm-fresh offerings including locally grown heirloom tomatoes, celery, lemon and lime basil, beets, tabasco peppers, and horseradish. If that’s not enough, it’s then aged in barrels that previously held Plan Bee’s legendary Pickle beer. The result is a bizarre yet wonderful blend of sweet, spicy, and sour that rivals any traditional Bloody Mary.
Looking for something else? If you’re in an area where Saucey delivers, you can get spirits, beer, wine, and more brought straight to your door. Select areas can even get free 30 minute delivery (with no order minimum requirement).
Related Video: The Importance of a Clean Beer Glass
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