Travis Tober’s Favorite Boilermaker Combos - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Travis Tober’s Favorite Boilermaker Combos

Story: Emma Mannheimer

Photo: Hunter Townsend

Travis Tober, co-owner Nickel City in Austin, Texas, has settled on a simple philosophy to guide what he orders where: Drink appropriately. By that he means, let your surroundings influence what you drink. “You don’t go to an Irish bar and ask for a Negroni. You go there and you’re drinking Guinness and a shot of Irish whiskey,” Tober says.

From his first job at an actual boilermaker bar in Buffalo, New York, where 7-ounce pours of Labatt Blue coupled with shots of Crown Royal were served to boilermaker union members from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m., to Nickel City’s enthusiasm for the classic beer-and-a-shot combo (their signature boilermaker is Jim Beam and a mug of Coors Original), Tober’s 20-year bar career has yielded many a boilermaker combination and informed a few basic rules.

First, he says, there are no bad pairings. “It’s like pizza: there’s not bad pizza, there’s just better versions of it,” he says. Second, with a few exceptions, temperature matters. “I think that natural pairing of a warm shot chased by a cold beer sets off something in your brain,” he adds. Last, when it comes to Tober’s preferred method for downing the duo, it’s the shot followed by the beer, ideally in a celebratory state of mind. “When I’m having a boilermaker, it’s 99.9 percent of the time with friends or people I haven’t seen in a while, so we always share the shot and then we sit down and reminisce and talk over the cold beer.” As for the perfect time of day to partake? “At the end of the night, past midnight, a boilermaker always seems appropriate,” Tober says.”

Here are eight of Tober’s favorite combos.

Anchor Porter + “frozen” Krogstad Aquavit with a pickle back “This is the boilermaker of the Nordics!” Tober says. “I first had it when I visited a few years back. Once I got home I used my favorite American porter and American aquavit—I also added a totally American thing with the pickle back.”

Old Style (can only) + 50/50 Amaro Montenegro and mezcal (Tober uses Sombra) “I was visiting one of my favorite cities, Chicago, in mid-November,” Tober recalls. “I caught up with fellow Texan Phillip Smith who moved there a while back. That’s when he cracked me an ice-cold Old Style and poured me a 50/50 mezcal and Montenegro. The two worked amazingly together and played real well with the beer.”

“Loaded” Modelo can + Tromba Blanco Tequila “The loaded portion is when you rub a fresh lime on the outside and the rim of the can, then roll it in kosher salt (much like a Margarita), finish it off by dashing some Cholula hot sauce on top of the can, crack it and put a fresh lime wedge over the opening,” says Tober. “We’ve been doing this one at Nickel City since we opened, and called it an “Overhand Toss,” which has a hilarious side story as well.”

Mango White Claw + Aperol “This one is a summertime favorite,” Tober says. “At this point even the type of bars that carry White Claw probably have a bottle of Aperol on the back bar. A match made in refreshing heaven!”

Miller High Life pony + Balcones Baby Blue Whiskey “This is a wild pairing. If you give the Baby Blue a whiff it smells like melted butter. Quick sip of that high-corn whiskey chased by an ice-cold baby High Life and it tastes like you’re snacking on movie theater popcorn!”

Carta Blanca + dealer’s choice mezcal “This, to me, is what a good boilermaker is all about!” says Tober. “Pure nostalgia. On Wednesdays, I always liked to head to a bar called King Bee. On that night Billy Hankey, the owner, held court. I’d usually go in the early evening to avoid any late-going drinkers. I’d order a Carta Blanca and Billy’s choice of top-shelf mezcal. It’s a perfect high/low pairing, then for the next hour or so we’d swap war stories and he’d educate me on Austin history, mezcal, and the bar business.”

Shacksbury Dry Cider + 50/50 any two amari + two dashes of orange bitters “To me, this is another classic pairing–cider goes so well with amaro. I like the fact that you can take two amari and two dashes of orange bitters and 99 percent of the time it pairs perfectly with a dry cider.”

Frosty mug of Coors Original + Jim Beam White Label “Since day one, this has been Nickel City’s number one seller,” says Tober. “So much so, that we were recognized by Coors as the number one seller of Coors Original on draft in America. And there’s something about bringing the boilermakers back to its roots. What else are you going to order at 9 a.m. after you finish the third shift making boilers!”

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