Brewsday Tuesday: Finding beer at Tales of the Cocktail

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NORA MCGUNNIGLE
  • NORA MCGUNNIGLE


Beyond the shandy (beer and lemonade) and michelada (beer mixed with lime juice and hot sauce/peppers), more and more cocktail professionals and mixologists have been using beer as an important flavor and texture component in their work. Although this year’s Tales of the Cocktail event, held July 17-21 and headquartered at the Hotel Monteleone, didn’t have any beer cocktail seminars or beer-focused “Spirited Dinners,” I was able to find a few events that quietly featured the ever-increasing role that beer plays in the craft cocktail world.

In fact, the official 2013 Tales of the Cocktail drink includes beer as a central ingredient. Jacob Grier, a bartender and writer from Portland, Ore., created the Portland Rickey, which utilizes a saison-style beer as the carbonated component of the drink. The spicy and floral notes of the saison (North Coast’s La Merle was used for the Tales opening toast) complement the gin, Chartreuse, and lemon and add a subtle flavor of graininess and malt which rounds out the overall flavor character of the drink.

Grier attended Tales of the Cocktail for the first time in 2009, where he met acclaimed beer writer Stephen Beaumont who introduced Grier to the world of beer complexity and beer cocktails. Now Grier is as well known for beer as he is for mixology. He created an event series in 2010 called “Brewing Up Cocktails” with two other beer mixologists, Ezra Johnson-Greenough and Yetta Vorobik, and the three of them are now trying to crowdsource through Kickstarter for a book based on the recipes they’ve created for those events over the past three years.



Saint Arnold Brewing from Houston decided to initiate a partnership with local distillery Old New Orleans Rum Company (ONOR) because events and marketing Manager Frank Krockenberger realized that in order to continue to grow, they needed to be able to sell their product to bartenders and give them a product to sell beyond just pouring and serving a beer. “Drink Alchemist” and former Saint Arnold employee Leslie Ross began experimenting with ways that the brewery could become more prominent in the cocktail world, and the Old New Orleans Rum collaboration led to a Tales-exclusive barrel-aged Grand Cru aged for 10 months in ONOR 10-year-old rum barrels. The brewery and distillery offered Tales of the Cocktail patrons three opportunities to experience the results of this partnership: two special excursions to the ONOR distillery to take a tour and drink beer cocktails and the specially brewed beer; and a tasting room held in ONOR founder James Michalopoulos’ art gallery on Bienville Street.

The excursion event featured the “Hold Fast” cocktail, which not only utilized Saint Arnold’s Elissa IPA, but also a grapefruit-Elissa IPA syrup originally created by Ross to save extra cask ale before it went bad, and her “Brewers Bitters,” a hop, grain, and spice infused bitters. The “Hold Fast” also incorporated the entire Old New Orleans rum lineup.The “Sucre D’Orge” cocktail served at the Michalopoulos gallery tasting room showcased ONOR’s crystal rum infused by local praline via a sous vide process as well as Saint Arnold’s Amber Ale. At all events, the limited edition Grand Cru beer —with four kegs for Tales of the Cocktail and four kegs for the brewery — was consistently drinkable and delicious in the classic Belgian style with notes of vanilla, oak, and hard candy.

Saint Arnold also participated in another beer-focused event: the “Shot and a Beer” pairing party held at the W hotel on Poydras Street on Friday night, where their Summer Pils was matched up with Dancing Pines’ spiced bitter orange liqueur. Several Louisiana beers were featured as well: Bärenjäger’s honey liqueur was paired with Bayou Teche’s cherrywood-smoked Boucanee beer, and Tin Roof’s Voodoo Bengal was paired with Jägermeister. Anchor Brewing offered its hop-distilled Hophead vodka to complement its beer, and Dickel Whisky decided to pair the dark and complex Trois Pistoles by Canadian brewery Unibroue. Another whisky brand, Alibi, had a nice combination with Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Ale.

Local bitters company Bittermen's is venturing into the distilling world with Bäska Snaps, a Swedish-style bitter spirit made with distilled wormwood, licorice, citrus and other botanicals, and paired it with a curious beer called “Flasskopp,” a Kölsch-inspired blonde ale created by an entity called “Glass+Couch” and contract brewed and bottled at Lazy Magnolia in Mississippi. I can’t find much at all about it, but it was a pretty decent beer and paired nicely with the bitter schnapps. Of course the classic Kopstootje pairing of barrel-aged Genever Bols and Stillwater’s spiced saison created specifically to match the spirit was included, and there was one simple beer cocktail as well. Drambuie decided (and was the only one to do so) to actually mix a bit of their product in with the Shiner Ruby Redbird seasonal. The tartness and spice of the beer’s grapefruit and ginger flavors worked really well with the sweet smoothness of the Drambuie.

Breweries like San Francisco’s Anchor and Michigan’s New Holland are crossing the brewery-distillery divide by exploring spirits. In addition to Anchor’s Hopehead Vodka discussed above, New Holland had a series of whiskies out for tasting in the “Indie Spirits That Rock” tasting room, one of which was aged in barrels that had previously aged their bourbon-barrel-aged beer. 

Although the events that featured beer did so quietly (as one would expect at an event showcasing cocktails) I found connections between beer and spirits and cocktails everywhere I turned at Tales of the Cocktail. I encourage you to try a bourbon barrel aged beer or a beer cocktail for yourself to explore these delicious relationships as well. See below for the official 2013 TOTC cocktail, the Portland Rickey, as well as Jacob Grier’s favorite beer cocktail he made at the event, and a very simple cocktail anyone can make at home, passed on to me by Grier but originally created by beer writer Stephen Beaumont.

The Portland Rickey, created by Jacob Grier
courtesy of Tales of the Cocktail and published on the Southern Food & Beverage Institute website
Recipe:
● 1 1/2 oz Martin Miller’s Gin
● 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
● 1/4 oz Green Chartreuse
● 4 oz saison or biere de garde style beer
● squeezed half of lemon (lemon shell), for garnish
Directions:
Combine the Martin Miller’s Gin, Green Chartreuse, lemon juice, and beer in an ice-filled highball glass. Drop the squeezed half-lemon into the drink. Gently stir. Garnish with a squeezed half of lemon, stirred into the drink as a nod to tradition.

Heart of Darkness
courtesy of Novo Fogo Cachaça and Jacob Grier
Recipe:
● 2 oz. Novo Fogo Barrel-Aged Cachaça
● .75 oz Koval Rose Hip Liqueur
● .5 oz BG Reynold’s Hibiscus Grenadine
● 1.5 oz. Flemish sour ale (Grier used Brouwerij Verhaeghe’s Duchesse De Bourgogne during Tales.)
Directions: Stir the first three ingredients with ice, strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice and top with sour ale. Stir gently. Garnish with a lemon peel.

Green Devil
created by Stephen Beaumont 
Recipe:
● rinse of absinthe
● 1 oz gin (Beaumont recommends Martin Miller’s)
● 1 bottle Duvel
Directions: Rinse your glass with the absinthe and add the gin. Pour in the Duvel, aiming for a big, foamy head. 

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