Beer cocktails have become a staple on bar menus around the country, but a new crossover between the beer and bartending worlds has started emerging in breweries: beers inspired by the flavor profiles and recipes of cocktails.
Most are born out of collaborations between breweries and bars or restaurants, as was the case when Pipeworks Brewing Co. approached Chicago bar Longman & Eagle with their idea for a Manhattan-inspired Strong Ale. “When we collaborate with a restaurant or bar we want to make a beer that is an expression of what is unique about that place,” operations manager and master of barrels Mike Schallau says. “Longman is one of the best whiskey bars in the world and they make killer cocktails, so the idea of making a whiskey cocktail–inspired beer seemed to fit well.”
The resulting beer, called Brown & Stirred, is brewed with a high rye percentage in the mashbill to evoke the spice of rye whiskey, cherry purée is a nod to the drink’s garnish, and a tea of bitter roots and baking spice hint at the profile of Angostura bitters. “When it came time to release the beer, the guys at Longman joked with us that they were going to serve it low, on the rocks with a twist of lemon, the same way they serve their Manhattan.” Schallau says. “It started as a joke, but we loved it; it really created the illusion that you were drinking a Manhattan and brought out some chocolate notes that were hiding in the beer.”
Since the original collaboration, Pipeworks has experimented with other cocktail inspirations as well, ranging from the Mojito (Mojito Madness features mint, coconut and key lime juice) to the White Russian (Hey, Careful Man, There’s a Beverage Here was an Imperial White Russian Stout made with cacao nibs, vanilla beans and Dark Matter Coffee).
The creativity of collaboration also inspired Perennial Artisan Ales’ annual Dealer’s Choice series of cocktail-inspired brews. The first release was a tart golden ale brewed with key lime and herbs created in conjunction with Aviary in Chicago as an homage to the classic Last Word, and the most recent experiment with Jack Rose in Washington, D.C. yielded a beer-cider hybrid ale inspired by the bar’s namesake cocktail. For brewer Jonathan Moxey, the experiments are a chance to challenge his routine and stretch his skills.
“I look for dominate flavors, aromas and palate sensations and try to emulate them in beer form,” Moxey says. “It requires drinking multiple versions of the cocktail, which is one of the tougher parts of my job.”
Wicked Weed Brewing has an entire line of beers inspired by cocktails like the Old Fashioned and French 75, and Jester King Brewery in Austin, Texas, recently teamed up with Bruery Terreaux to make Imperial Cabinet, a Ramos Gin Fizz-inspired barrel-fermented farmhouse ale. They use a high percentage of unmalted wheat and rolled oats to mimic cream, rosemary, lavender and juniper that hearken to gin’s botanical nature, and dried orange blossoms to mimic the orange flower water. Jester King’s Jeffrey Stuffings says the final beer does actually resemble the flavors of the cocktail, and he thinks it’s not a stretch to think we’ll see much more of this crossover happening. “I think brewers and bartenders have a lot in common and are compelled to explore each others’ respective crafts,” he says. “Both pursuits are extensions of the culinary world and have the potential for crossover.”