The Buzz on Beer Cocktails

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers

Even a craft beer purist can appreciate creative new blends.

As a dedicated craft beer geek, there are certain trends in the beer world I try to ignore, hoping they’ll go away. One of these crazes is the rise of beer cocktails, which has bartenders blending beer, spirits, and juice to create funky new flavors.

It’s been easy to stay away from these frivolous (and, admittedly, sort of fun) beer blend-ups until recently, when Red Robin Gourmet Burgers introduced a pair of the drinks for the masses. This counts as a pop culture crossover of sorts for the beer cocktail, taking the trend from the independent gastropubs and funky beer bars into a national, casual-dining chain.

I’m all for creative expression, but as a beer geek, it makes me uneasy to see people messing with the precise flavors and sensations a brewer worked so obsessively to create. It’s like someone airbrushing the Mona Lisa to jazz the old girl up a bit, or making a dubstep remix of the Beatles’ Let it Be. Whatever happened to simply enjoying the work of a great artist as he intended?

Love it or hate it, the idea of mixing things with beer goes back more than a dozen centuries. There’s record of a beer, wine, and mead mashup being served at the funeral of King Midas in 700 B.C., and colonists in 18th century America used to enjoy a “Flip,” where a red hot iron was plunged into a pitcher of beer, molasses, and rum, flash-roasting the grains and caramelizing the sugars in the blend, creating a very unique tipple indeed.

These days, examples of people taking the flavor of their beers to new places by adding ingredients can be found around the globe. In Northern Mexico, the Michelada is made by blending cerveza with lime juice and dashes of hot sauce, soy sauce, and Worcestershire—and serving it in a glass with a salted rim. When the weather gets hot in the U.K., the British are known to enjoy a “shandy,” a 50-50 blend of beer and lemonade—or ginger ale or whatever other sweet and fruity fluid they think will make a beer extra refreshing.

One of the bars at the forefront of the beer cocktail movement here in America is Denver’s Euclid Hall, a gastropub that blends a solid menu of craft beers from Colorado and beyond with dressed up comfort foods. It’s a place that likes to take the familiar and serve it up with a delicious twist—like their chicken and sourdough waffles with black pepper Béchamel and maple gastrique, and their wild mushroom poutine, a grab of hand-cut fries topped with porcini gravy and cheddar cheese curds.


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