Cocktail-Inspired Beers Gain Popularity

News by | Feb 2016 | Issue #109

Brooklyn Brewery’s Improved Old Fashioned, the latest in a growing number of cocktail-inspired beers from brewers like Short’s Brewing, Four Quarters Brewing and Perennial Artisan Ales, hits shelves in early February. Part of the Brooklyn Quarterly Experiment series and the brewery’s third cocktail-inspired beer, Improved Old Fashioned is modeled after the classic rye-based cocktail. “It’s a strong rye beer, brewed with botanicals, aged in WhistlePig rye whiskey barrels, and then infused with a blend of herbs and peels that recreate the character of bitters,” says brewmaster Garrett Oliver, referring to himself as a “cocktail geek.” “Next to chefs, I really think of mixologists as the nearest parallel to brewers when it comes to creativity and flavor creation.”

For its Dealer’s Choice series, Missouri’s Perennial Artisan Ales has found inspiration in its cocktail-focused accounts. A partnership with Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington DC yielded a beer modeled after the bar’s signature cocktail, made with bonded applejack, grenadine and lime juice.

It can be a challenge for brewers to achieve a cocktail’s balance of flavors in beer form though. “I pick out dominant flavors and sensations with each drink and then try to reverse engineer it as I write the recipe,” says Perennial brewer Jonathan Moxey, who decided on a cider-beer hybrid with a Märzen malt bill and finished with pomegranate and key lime juice to recreate the Jack Rose. It was released last August.

Another beer inspired by the old fashioned emerged from a collaboration between Short’s Brewing and Funky Buddha Brewing. To recreate the flavor, the breweries blended a bourbon barrel-aged Gruit made with Florida oranges, yarrow and rosemary with a bourbon barrel-aged American Strong Ale brewed with Michigan cherries. Tip ta Tip debuted at the Extreme Beer Festival in Boston this month.

These beers might have staying power, too. Partnerships between mixologists and brewers could have the potential to connect cocktail and beer cultures. Brendan Dorr, an award-winning mixologist, cocktail consultant and president of the Baltimore Bartenders Guild, thinks the trend has promise. “Many cocktail-centered bars don’t focus on the beers quite as much,” Dorr says, “I think it could be one of many things that help bridge that gap.”