A few adventurous mixologists around town are tapping into a trend — the beer cocktail.
You’re probably acquainted with the boilermaker (a shot dropped into a beer) and the shandy (half lemonade, half beer). But nowadays bartenders are challenging the reach of malt beverages by combining them with fruit puree, cocktail mixers, liquor and more.
For instance, Liquid Quack. Where can you get it? The White Duck Taco Shop, of course. Co-owner Ben Mixson (who is also a sommelier) makes this one out of Asheville Brewing Company’s Rocket Girl lager with Angostura bitters and fresh peach puree (and a bit of grenadine, depending on his mood).
The bitters cut the peachiness, and the result is fizzy and refreshing, but not too sweet. One Liquid Quack costs $4 for a half-pint. “I wanted to make a savory adult cocktail that’s not boozy but is pleasurable and easy to make,” Mixson says.
Mixson also mixes shandies (a traditional British summer drink) when the restaurant has Greenman Brewery’s wheat beer on draft. He’s spent a lot of time testing and tasting different combinations until landing on the mix that is the Liquid Quack. He says he’ll continue to develop new beer cocktails — especially since peach season will be over soon.
If you’re looking for other beer cocktails around here, you’ll most likely find the shandy, the snakebite (lager and hard cider) and the michelada (beer — typically Mexican — with tomato juice and spices). Bars and restaurants out West have taken the trend to another level, mixing bourbon with stout and lagers with vodka and gin, to name a few.
Still, there are a few other variations in town. The Bywater offers what they call “manmosas” — half Pabst Blue Ribbon (or half hard cider) and half orange juice (or half hard cider and half orange juice). I found the first rather unappealing in taste, but I like the juicy sparkle of the second.
Some beer purists and brewers may dislike mixing beer with other substances — just as some wine lovers snub sangria. But others are actively searching for a good brew cocktail.
“I’m totally fine with people taking my beer to another level. It adds a level of sophistication to beer drinking, which I’m all for,” says Doug Riley, master brewer for Asheville Brewing Company.
Cúrate, Asheville’s newish tapas restaurant, offers a drink called panaché. The star of the show here isn’t necessarily the liquid, but the vessel in which the beer cocktail is served. It’s a vase-shaped glass container with a spout on one side called a pórron.
The idea is to tip the pórron so the panaché flows from the spout into your mouth, then you move the vessel away from your mouth so the beer cocktail flows in an arc from spout to mouth. The trick (so I’m told) is to swallow with your mouth open — and to flick the porrón down quickly when you’re done so you don’t dribble (I dribbled. A lot). It’s kind of a Spanish frat trick.
In Spain, a porrón would typically contain a wine mixture, but at Cúrate, the bartenders mix Pisgah Pale Ale with a bit of fresh lemon juice and a sparkling drink called Fever-Tree Bitter Lemon.
The concoction definitely tastes of lemon, which pretty much overpowers the flavor of the beer. It’s also highly carbonated; it reminds me a little of those Zotz candy drops that fizz up on your tongue. The drink costs $12, but easily serves two. It’s worth it to play with the porrón.
Those familiar with North Carolina’s Alcoholic Beverage Control laws and rules were worried that mixing beer cocktails might be illegal. Why? Apparently there’s a rule on the books that you can’t adulterate beverages. I talked to the ABC legal department in Raleigh and got the facts. Once you’ve poured the beer out of the container it was put in by the manufacturer (the brewery), you’re free to modify it. However, don’t put a lemon in that bottle of Corona if you’re a bartender (that’s adulteration, and illegal).
Need to get into shape for Brewgrass? Or did you miss out on tickets to Asheville’s premiere boutique beer fest? Either way, you can partake of Brewgrass Training at Barley’s Taproom’s (upstairs) on the next three Tuesday nights.
Get 10 samples of draft beer from Barley’s eclectic mix of local and national brews. Get a “Brewgrass Training” T-shirt. Get two slices of pizza and take home the tasting glass. All of that is available for $20.
Also, two tickets will be given away on Sept. 13 to some lucky beer lover on the training team roster (make sure to sign in on the night you attend to be eligible).
When, you ask, can I do all this? Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. on Aug. 30, Sept. 6, and Sept. 13. For more information, call 255-0504.