We've all had our fun with traditional cocktails, the classic marriage between liquor and fruit juices, soft drinks and even other spirits. But where has beer ended up in all of this? While it's unlikely you'll observe someone ordering a straight gin at the bar, it's even more unlikely to witness a beer-mixing in progress. No, a simple beer from the tap and in an ordinary pint glass is de rigueur, with additional creativity generally limited to the addition of a citrus wedge.
But the truth is, beer lends itself quite well to mixing — with liquors and liqueurs, soft drinks, fruit juices and, of course, other beers. This is nothing new in other parts of the world — the English combine their pale ale with ginger ale and call it a Shandy, while the German version combines pale lager and lemonade, calling it a Radler — but in the U.S., much of our experience with beer cocktails starts and ends at the Boilermaker, a strictly utilitarian drink combining cheap, domestic lager with a shot of bottom-shelf bourbon. Maybe this is why we drink our beer neat.
The good news is that ordering a mixed beer drink isn't entirely unheard of these days, especially because of the surge of craft-beer bars popping up all over the nation. You may have ordered a Black & Tan in the past (stout and pale ale), or possibly a Snakebite (stout and cider), but have you tried a Dirty Hoe? It's a mix of Hoegaarden witbier and Lindeman's Framboise Lambic. This will be old news to many, but it may be a revelation to others who have long wished that their beer had more raspberries in it.
Several bars in the area have special mixes on the menu already. Lagerhaus in Palm Harbor serves a Radler (Helles lager and lemonade) and a Black Bavarian (Helles and cola), among others. The staff can even make you a frozen margarita using the in-house fruit lambic, or one of several cocktails utilizing beer in the recipe. At the Mellow Mushroom in Tampa, a potent Oil Can Carl (equal parts Old Rasputin Imperial Stout and Gordon Double IPA) is a bold choice, combining two flavorful heavyweights.
Not all beer mixers require the addition of other beers or spirits, either. At Casa Tina in Dunedin, a traditional Michelada is on the menu: a mix of Modelo Especial lager, fresh lime juice, Maggi seasoning sauce, Valentina hot sauce and salt, with a salted rim. Don't make that face — it's delicious.
Say you want to get started mixing beers, but you're not sure where to start. Stouts and porters are big players in the beer-mixing game, as they create rich bases with coffee and chocolate undertones. Consider the Chocolate Truffle (Young's Double Chocolate Stout with a splash of Lindeman's Framboise Lambic) or the Black Velvet (Dry Irish stout with champagne). Or go for effervescence — the Japanese are fond of their Broadways, a mix of pale Asian lager and cola.
During a recent trip to Rex in St. Petersburg, some experimenting was done, with (ahem) mixed results. Starr Hill's The Love hefeweizen was a perfect compliment to Ace Perry Cider, giving the result a fruity and slightly tart body with an aroma of pears and bananas. Cigar City's Maduro Brown Ale was a nice contrast to Mama's Little Yella Pils, creating a lighter-bodied and slightly more hoppy brown ale, almost reminiscent of a schwarzbier. Red ales and witbiers, stouts and Märzens — the combinations were endless.
Do yourself a favor and try something new with your next beer. Mix some favorites together, going for complement or contrast, or maybe give it some legs with an addition of aromatic bitters or fruit-flavored liqueurs. Bring it down a notch with some soda or fruit juice. Whatever you do, be creative — you might be surprised by the results.