Peruse the menu at any hip Park City speakeasy or eatery, and you’re sure to find cocktails that mix beer with liquor. While these frothy concoctions may seem an of-the-moment mash-up of artisan brewing and craft distilling, the practice actually has deep roots.
“Mixing ales with spirits was very popular around the late 1800s and early 1900s,” says Scott Brimhall, longtime bartender with the Salt Lake Brewing Company (the umbrella management entity for Squatters and Wasatch brewpubs). “Beer became gradually much more homogenous in succeeding years, and since plain beers like Miller Lite aren’t that interesting to mix with alcohol, the practice faded. But now, as craft brewers are making beers with more complex flavor profiles, bartenders are adding them back into their standard lineup of mixers.”
Ales, for example, can lend a light, almost citrusy flavor to cocktails, while stouts yield a richer, nutty taste, Brimhall explains. Some of the “beer-tails” he’s mixed up include Wasatch Brew Pub’s (250 Main St) High Plains Drifter, made with Wasatch GhostRider White IPA, Beehive Distilling’s Jack Rabbit Gin, crème de violette, fresh lemon juice, and organic cane syrup. “The recipe is based on the Blue Moon, popular in the 1940s as a poor man’s drink where beer was used to stretch the flavor of the rum,” Brimhall says. Over at Squatters (1900 Park Ave), the English Cup (made with Squatters Chasing Tail Golden Ale, Pimm’s No. 1, Patrón Citrónge orange liqueur, fresh lemon juice, organic cane juice, and English cucumbers) pays homage to the homeland of Squatters cofounder Peter Cole.
Even High West Distillery (703 Park Ave), Park City’s liquor purveyor of choice, got in the game earlier this year with its Mustang Shandy—a medley of High West’s Son of Bourye whiskey, spiced honey syrup, fresh lemon juice, and Boulevard Brewing Co’s Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale—the runaway winner at last summer’s Park City Cocktail Contest. Take it as proof that beer’s status as a cocktail mixer has arrived. Again.