Today is New Beer's Day. Yes, that's right. Threescore and 18 years ago, the Cullen-Harrison Act took effect, allowing thirsty Americans everywhere the right to drink beer rated at 3.2 percent or less ABV.
Seventy-eight years after those first tenuous sips, the state of beer in America is improving. Not perfect, but improving. Americans are rediscovering beer; craft breweries are sprouting from sea to shining sea like toadstools after a spring rain. More people than ever are brewing their own beer, and the result is a slow, steady increase in the average quality of beer being consumed in the United States. (That average will stagnate at some point until such time as college students stop drinking things like Natty Light and the watery choice of U of M students, Grain Belt "Premo.")
The next frontier, then, is beer cocktails. They're nothing new, of course--bartenders have been making them since the first taps flowed in 1933--but they're due for a renaissance. Here are five beer cocktails you can make at home to get you started:
So easy, even a Purdue fan could make it (rim shot). Take a glass of beer. Set a shot of whiskey next to it (bourbon is fine too, even Canadian whiskey would be acceptable). Knock the shot back and chase it with beer. Repeat until you forget that the Black and Gold went 4-8 last year. Some people drop the shot into the beer, which is nontraditional but common. Some mix it before drinking. Do this in the Midwest and everybody will know you just read about it online and have never drunk a boilermaker before.
This can't be the official drink of Southern California, because the fruity freshman girl "martini" is firmly lodged in first place, but it should've been a contender. A michelada is a Mexican beer cocktail more properly known as cerveza preparada. The indispensable ingredients are hot sauce, lime and a rim of salt on the mug; additions such as tomato (or Clamato) juice, Worcestershire sauce (called salsa inglesa in Spanish) and Maggi seasoning are commonplace and perfectly canonical ... but sorry, the piss water in a bottled Budweiser selling as "Chelada" is not the same at all.
3. Berliner Weisse
We call our sparkling white wine "Champagne," we call our stinky cheese "Brie," and we've even had people try to distill liquor from local agave and call it "tequila." It's not surprising, then, that this light, fruity German beer cocktail has made it here with its name unchanged. Berliner Weisse (say "VIGH-suh") is a light, fizzy, wheat brew that tastes like the beer equivalent of Champagne. Like its French wine counterpart, it mixes well with syrups such as crème de cassis, woodruff syrup (which turns it a disturbing neon shade of green), or even Chambord.
Korean for "bomb alcohol," this is the Korean answer to the very popular sake bomb. Balance a shot of soju, the sweet potato-based distilled beverage that is the national drink of Korea, over a half-glass of light, extremely carbonated Korean beer such as Hite or O.B. If you're drinking with your grandfather, make sure to turn away before drinking it down for politeness' sake. Dipshida!
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5. Black and Tan
What's better than a glass of beer? A glass of two beers, of course. A black-and-tan is the traditional British drink of a half-pint of stout in the same glass as a half-pint of pale ale. The tradition, of course, is Bass and Guinness, but here in California we've got more than enough of our own excellent beers to replace it. Incidentally, though stout is darker and it is lighter in weight than pale ale, so a black-and-tan is read from the top down.