Got Beer? Taking Beer Cocktails’ Side

beer-2375021_960_720You will not find a single subject to more perfectly divide beer nerds than that of beer cocktails. There are two schools of thought: The first is that a delicious beer can and should be combined with complementary flavors in creative and interesting ways. The second is that mixing beer with anything else is blasphemous and if caught, the perp is sentenced to have their hands chopped off at the wrists and forced to take dictation for Aaron Sorkin.

At the risk of losing body parts, I can’t say I’m against beer cocktails.

Hop flavors come in such rich varieties that it almost seems criminal not to explore the endless subtleties, and it seems almost hypocritical to discourage flavor experimentation. If a black & tan is acceptable on one side of the fence, I see no reason why a gose’rita is unacceptable on the other.

But then, the purists do have something of a point. In my famous and long-standing dislike of fruit beers, I maintain that a good beer style doesn’t need an orange slice to taste good. But perhaps the difference there is not in the act, but rather, in the intent. If the beer’s good enough, why change it? Well, if the flavor concept is appealing enough, why not try it?

Adding fruit to a beer style that doesn’t need it is either experimentation or making up for a weak beer. Making a beer cocktail can be seen as the same thing. A boiler-maker sounds like the kind of cheap alcohol delivery system enjoyed mostly by frat boys and people who listen to too much George Thorogood. But if you age a beer in a bourbon barrel, somehow combining these flavors gains more merit. The technique is more advanced, I’ll grant you, and the result usually has significantly better flavors. But where did the original idea come from?

So maybe beer cocktails are perfectly acceptable, provided there’s real thought and care put into them.

I can see where lambics and champagne could meld to produce something palatable, but I wouldn’t try that trick with an IPA. A white ale might often be served with a slice of orange, but maybe instead we could add a dash of orange liqueur and sweet rum.

But there’s one aspect to this topic that will make even open-minded beer nerds turn their noses up. Ask anyone what the best beer in the country is, and you’ll probably get the usual suspects: Heady Topper, Pliny the Elder, etc. Who would dream of ever marring these perfectly crafted brews with unnecessary additions?

That’s not to say beer cocktails need to be made with lesser beers, but at a certain point, I think we can all agree that we don’t need to mess with the real classics. That’s where the beer purists are absolutely right. But we all know there is an unending sea of mediocre brews out there, and some are downright amazing when combined with new flavors. So beer nerds, please put down your hacksaws. Especially if you really do enjoy bourbon stouts.

So that said, I’m going to mix some tequila and lime juice into my citrusy white IPA. Because something has to make a white IPA taste good, and I’m determined to make this $10 six-pack worth my while.

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