How to Turn Dallas Beers into Summer Beer Cocktails That Don't Suck
Even though the season won't officially change until later his month, I believe that the weekend after Memorial Day ought to be heralded and celebrated as the first weekend of summer. Hopefully, you all behaved appropriately by eating your first snow cones, re-organizing your closet, and dumping standing water to prevent a West Nile Virus outbreak.
Summer, more than any other, is a season to do things a little differently. Grill dinner instead of bake. Leave work early on Fridays. Wear jorts.
And when the weather gets to be above 95, you ought to be able to drink beer differently, too. Sure, beer on its own glorious. But a splash or two of just the right mixer can take you to new beer drinking heights and enhance your poolside get-together in spectacular ways.
I devoted last weekend to determine which of our fine local beers lend themselves well to mixing with a few standard beer cocktail ingredients. With apologies to the undergraduate population of SMU, I stayed away from recipes that just add liquor to beer (boilermakers, car bombs). I also tried to stay away from anything that required an actual cocktail shaker, in order to save you the embarrassment of showing up to Cedar Springs park for a day of summer fun with elderflower syrup and coconut shavings. No, dear citizen, the point here is to extend and enhance your drinking experience, not cut it short.
Summer Shandy -- Peticolas' Velvet Hammer or Four Corner's Local BuzzThe Summer Shandy is the classic summer beer cocktail, with commercial versions being pissed out by the larger macro-brewers every year. On the whole, these pre-packaged bottles taste like a watered down combination of Pledge and malt liquor. I couldn't decide between recommending lemonade or ginger ale, but since the North Texas summer is long I figure that you'll have plenty of hot days to try both. Peticolas' Velvet Hammer is one of the best brews in town, but it's worth trying to accent those floral hops and light brown sugar sweetness with a decent lemonade, poured at a ratio of 3:1. The honey in Local Buzz became cloying with lemonade, but ginger ale was just spicy enough to provide a balanced, deliciously refreshing drink. And yes, even though we're talking about beer, use ice. Ideally, you won't have any problems with a watered down drink because it's so good that you'll finish it before the ice melts.
Michelada -- Franconia's Kolsch
This one actually gave me a bit of trouble. Micheladas are my favorite drink of this genre, and I wanted to find a beer that would allow itself to be transformed by the spices without being overthrown by them. Franconia's Kolsch did the trick. Sure, you could use Pacifico or whatever everyone else is spilling on their flip-flops, but using a Kolsch definitely makes a difference in flavor. If you're just making one, mix a half-cup of Clamato (a pre-mixed combination of tomato juice and spices, found next to the V8 in any Fiesta), a splash of Worcestershire or Maggi, a few splashes of Cholula, and the juice of three or four decent limes, then top it off with a bottle of beer. Butlet's not kid ourselves -- you're not just making one. Skip the pretense and make a whole pitcher to avoid having to, you know, do anything else later.
Black Velvet -- Lakewood's Temptress Milk Stout
Black Velvet is ubiquitous on Internet lists of beer cocktails, but I'd never actually tried one. Per every recipe, the mix is simply half brut champagne and half stout. Skeptical but curious, I gave it a shot and was pleasantly surprised. The bitterness of the cheap brut was greatly improved by the powerful milk sugars of Temptress, and the bubbles of the brut transformed the relatively low-carbonated temptress into something more akin to a good cream soda. I probably wouldn't drink a pitcher of these, but it's probably for the best that the combination of a 9% ABV beer with 12+% champagne is a bit of a slower, but still delightful, drinking experience.
Cincinnati Cocktail -- Deep Ellum Brewing Co.'s Dream Crusher
If it hadn't been for cocktail historian David Wondrich's prodding, I wouldn't have even tried this. Tonic water and beer at a 1:1 ratio sounds simply wasteful of good beer, and that's coming from someone who just put lemonade into Velvet Hammer. Then, something magical happened. At more than 100 IBUs, Dream Crusher prides itself on destroying your palate with hops on top of citrusy, piney, delicious hops. The simple addition of tonic water opened up flavors I'd never noticed before. There really is malt in there! Some sweetness too! Grapefruit! Bananas! Tonic water serves as a magic decoder ring for flavor, allowing a drinker to finally taste and appreciate the full nuance of all the wonderful elements that were really there all along. And, now you can drink twice as much of it. Summer's on, people.!--EndFragment-->