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The State of Suds

The Beer Cocktail

Flavors that can (sometimes) go great together

By William Kennedy

The beer cocktail might seem like the Jerry Maguire of alcoholic beverages: just enough football for the dudes and just enough romantic comedy for the ladies. Even the words seem to rest uneasily next to one another on the page. Beer is the drink of choice for Budweiser-pounding Duck fans or bearded Northwest microbrew snobs, while “cocktail” conjures up a girl’s night out, Carrie Bradshaw and shoe shopping. Why mix the two? 

Tripel Shandy. Photos by Trask Bedortha.

Turns out the beer cocktail is nothing new. But these aren’t your dad’s boilermakers (a mixture of whiskey and beer) or the traditional get-me-wasted-fast on St. Paddy’s Day blend of Irish stout, Irish cream and Irish whiskey known as the Irish car bomb. The beer cocktails of today mix beer with vodka, tequila, gin and … Tabasco Sauce?

Chris Murphy, bartender at Davis Restaurant and Bar, serves a variety of beer cocktails. Murphy has been tending bar on and off for more than 20 years, but this is the first time he’s had these beverages on his menu. He says the beer cocktail is popular right now in major metropolitan areas like New York and San Francisco, and the trend has reached Eugene. “Sales are really picking up. I used to have to ‘sell’ beer cocktails, but I’m getting return customers now,” he says while preparing some examples of the trend.

The most popular beer cocktail on Murphy’s menu is the michelada, a mixture of spicy tomato juice, lime juice, tequila and Sessions lager. Its flavor is a sort of cousin of the Bloody Mary. The drink is from Mexico, and its mixture of light beer and lime juice would be appealing on a warm summer evening. But the one-two punch of tequila and spices would make it hard to survive more than one.

Next up is the top o’ the morning (Guiness, hard apple cider and Patr"n XO Coffee Liqueur). Murphy says it’s the most divisive beer cocktail on his menu, and I can tell why. The mixture of Guiness, apple and coffee flavors reminds me of an ill-advised hangover breakfast on its way back up. I didn’t think you could ruin Guiness, but this drink proves it’s possible. Back on the refreshing side is the tripel shandy (Trumer Pilsner, ginger brew and lemon) and a Murphy original called the lunchbox (amaretto, orange juice and Oakshire Line Dry Rye). Both drinks are thirst-quenching, and it would be easy to drink one too many on a hot summer afternoon.

Murphy goes on to say that many of his customers order beer cocktails on a whim despite being skeptical at first, and most are converted to the idea. He adds that the “professional drinkers” in Eugene are an educated bunch who tend to be a bit stuck in their ways. “If you like IPA, that’s all you order,” he clarifies. So this summer get out of your comfort zone, put down the IPA (for a round) and try a beer cocktail. You might surprise yourself. 




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