The Creative Rebirth of Beer Cocktails

by Billy Broas



Forget the Black and Tan. Forget the Shandy and the Michelada. Those are yesterday’s beer cocktails.

The craft beer revolution has given us an insane variety of flavors. We’re just now realizing that we can bring these flavors to the kitchen and that beer is a better cooking ingredient than wine, so it’s not surprising that this trend has carried over to professional mixology.

Ryan Conklin is taking advantage of the opportunity.

Ryan is a buddy of mine, the Denver Bartender Examiner, and a bartender at Euclid Hall in downtown Denver. Euclid is a newer establishment but has really made a name for itself with its wide craft beer selection and delicious food in an upscale atmosphere.

Whenever I stop, by I’m treated to a new beer by Ryan. He’s the bartender we always hope for but rarely get – knowledgeable about beer, helpful in finding a good match for your taste buds, and oh yea, knowledgeable about beer.

He’s also a crazy experimenter and is always whipping up new beer cocktails. It’s become his trademark of sorts. He’s always looking for feedback to improve, and I’m always happy to be the guinea pig.

So why the resurgence in beer cocktails? Here are three reasons:

  • Selection. When you have access to so many new beers with different flavor profiles it creates limitless options for mixing with spirits and other ingredients.
  • Craft beer on tap. This is one I never thought about until Ryan told me. Since there are so many more craft beers on tap it makes it much easier to mix drinks. You don’t need to crack open an expensive bottle for 2 ounces of beer and waste the rest. The beer becomes like a bottle of spirits on the shelf – ready for a drop or a full glass.
  • More mature palates. For the same reason people are getting into craft beer, they enjoy the new flavors that beer cocktails bring. You can taste something you’ve never tasted before.

Purists resent the beer cocktail, but if you like a good cocktail, then why can’t beer be one of the ingredients? I wonder if the naysayers feel the same way about all cocktails. Wouldn’t the same logic assume that whiskey should only be drunk straight and never mixed?

The Video and a Recipe for You

In the video above, Ryan walks us through making one of his signature beer cocktails, the cherry bourbon milk stout. Here’s the recipe:

Cherry Bourbon Milk Stout

  • 6 oz. Left Hand Milk Stout
  • 1 oz Corner Creek Kentucky Bourbon
  • 1/2 oz Leopold Brothers Tart Michigan Cherry Liqueur

This one is delicious and has really become popular with guests. I recommend you give it a shot sometime.

Always wanting to hone his skills, Ryan then challenges me to pick a beer off the tap list for him to make a cocktail on the fly. Trying to be sneaky, I picked one I hadn’t seen him use yet – the Steamworks Colorado Kolsch.

He passed the test making a light but juicy concoction with Old Tim Gin, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, and Leopold Brothers Absinthe. Nicely done.

Hope you enjoy the video. Big thanks to Ryan and Euclid Hall for letting me drink their expensive beer and liquor before noon on a Sunday. If you’re ever in Denver, swing by and check it out.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Jorge - Brew Beer And Drink It February 18, 2011 at 12:58 pm

It’s five o’clock somewhere, huh?

That Cherry Bourbon Milk Stout actually sounds delicious… I did go to bartending school, so I may have to look back through my notes and see what I can come up with…

On second thought… I’ll leave it to the experts to make beer cocktails…

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Billy Broas February 18, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Very cool you went to bartending school. Yea, give it a shot. Or do like you said and find yourself a Ryan to make it for you. Cheers!

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Steve Broas February 18, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Billy,

Love the fact you are throwing them back at 11:00 AM. Denver has it right. The Milk stout looks great. I may have to venture out and get some of those ingredients. I am intrigued at the St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur. Could be from your Grandmother’s family … the St. Germains. Grandma would be proud of ya.

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Billy Broas February 18, 2011 at 9:40 pm

It’s how I should always start my Sundays. I was thinking the same thing about the St. Germain Elderflower. That should have been a staple in their house! I know she’d be proud though. You should be able to find the Left Hand Milk Stout back east, but if not let me know and I’ll send you some. Very good stuff.

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Daniel Clayton February 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Great video Billy – I hadn’t thought of all the possibilities with beer cocktails, but I guess they are endless. Thanks for shining the light on this, can’t wait to visit and check out this bar. Keep up the good work, man.

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Billy Broas February 18, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Thanks DC. Hope to grab some beers with you in the spring.

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Mama Monroe February 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I love this! Beer + liquor = 2 of my favorite things. Justin & Dina over at Star Bar are making some pretty fantastic beer cocktails as well (as you already know I’m sure!)…

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Billy Broas February 18, 2011 at 9:41 pm

I have indeed tasted Justin’s creations. In fact, there was a part I cut out of the video (bad audio) where Ryan says he got into beer cocktails from Justin. Glad you liked it!

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Stan February 18, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Billy,

Awesome! Just plain awesome!

I’ve been asking my beer supply store if and when they might have Left Hand Milk Stout on the shelves. They do have some other from Left Hand, so it shouldn’t be to difficult. I’ll definitely try that beer cocktail when I get ahold of some.

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Billy Broas February 18, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Thanks Stan. From what I hear their milk stout goes very fast. If you get some and give it a shot though, definitely stop back in and let us know what you think.

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MixnSip February 20, 2011 at 9:53 am

Love to see “Beertails” gaining popularity, and I’m not even a beer drinker. To heck with those purists, you can put anything in a beer or a cocktail and if you like it, it’s good.

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Jimmie the Mum February 20, 2011 at 9:09 pm

I need to try the beer cocktails with breakfast.

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Dad February 21, 2011 at 12:02 am

Great Video and subject. You’re taking me to Euclid’s for breakfast when I get out there to try Ryan’s concoctions!

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Shane February 23, 2011 at 4:15 pm

There have been several highly attended beer cocktail events in the Portland area of the past year (although I have yet to make it to one). One beer cocktail that seems to be intriguing to the homebrewer is the Hot Scotchie. As Jeff Alworth (http://beervana.blogspot.com/2010/11/greatest-beverage-in-world-hot-scotchy.html) notes, “brewers would draw off a small amount of the mash as it issued from the grain bed, fresh and warm. To this they added a dollop of Scotch. What happens is nothing short of mystical.” It’s something I haven’t tried yet, but as a homebrewer, this might be my next adventure. I can only imagine the flavors.

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Billy Broas February 23, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Shane, I’m EXTREMELY grateful you introduced me to the Hot Scotchie. This weekend I will try it for the first time. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of it and actually missed one of Jeff’s posts. Apparently Ray Daniels is a big fan too. I came across this tweet. Stop back in and let us know when you try it. I’ll do the same. Possibly with a video ; ) Thanks!

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Roscoe March 12, 2011 at 11:30 pm

I remember I used to add a shot of root beer snapps to a pint of light beer, gives it a darker and sweet taste. Plus adds a kick too! Would you be able to add a bottle of snapps to a 5 gallon batch? I’ve been thinking about it and was going to look in to see if anyone has done it already and what the results were. Your post was great, seemed like a good time to ask…

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Billy Broas March 13, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Hey Roscoe. I’ve never heard adding root beer schnapps but that’s a cool idea. I suppose you could add it to a 5 gallon batch of homebrew but I think I’d rather add it directly to the glass, just in case I wanted to have a non-doctored version. It’s similar to people adding fruit syrups to a berliner weiss in the glass. Thanks for the tip!

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