Beer adulteration. It sounds dirty. But it’s a way to make an otherwise pedestrian beer seem wildly exotic.
So-so wine can be made into sangria. So-so beer can be mixed with clamato for a great hangover remedy and an inscrutable flavour combination.
However, I suspect people who drink this abomination are either caesar drinkers in disguise, or live in Twilight and actually prefer bloody, murky beverages.
One afternoon during the last decade I wasn’t paying attention and somebody invented beer cocktails for undisclosed reasons.
While good in theory, some of the concoctions – Bloody bullfighter (beer, clamato, gin, hot sauce) – sound a little dodgy and one might forgo the internal application and instead use it as a salve to treat, say, psoriasis.
I tasted one recently and it was like Draino for the innards. Actually, I lie. It was good… just a little too much Tabasco, because the barkeep had never heard of a beer cocktail and looked a little disgusted when I suggested it.
(Yes, it is possible to meet people who are even bigger beer snobs than myself.)
I asked a nicer bartender at the Alibi Room in Gastown, Vancouver, to mix me up a beer cocktail of his choosing.
He was a little more pleasant and even seemed happy to throw a bunch of random liquids together – beer is their specialty and that bar has the taps to prove it.
The staff favourite is called Wolf Spirit. It is their after-shift beer cocktail of choice. The mix is bourbon, a splash of Campari, a splash of imperial stout (in this case, Old Rasputin from North Coast Brewing Co.), topped with orange rind.
It will, literally, put hair on your knuckles and other disturbing parts of your body. It is bitter upon bitter. But, if you don’t like bitter, you may as well be drinking b*tch pops.
People put all sorts of things in beer these days, but there are the classics.
My dad used to make ginger beer when I was young.
For a couple of days every June, in my pre-pubescent years, nobody was allowed to use the only bathtub in our house because he was soaking bottles to loosen the crud at the bottom – very popular in a house full of girls.
Then, as now, it was difficult to find a true ginger beer on the market. The only commercial version I have encountered is made by Phillips Brewing out of Victoria, British Columbia.
The beer has a great ginger flavour but the brewery uses a really attenuative yeast, which means the yeast completely eats up all the sugars and leaves the beer very, very dry.
It is sort of like drinking ginger-infused Alka-seltzer, which doesn’t sound appetizing, but might be a good accompaniment to the après-bar mojos and chicken wings you keep buying at Tags.
One of the more difficult beer styles for some people to choke down are the rauchbiers (smoked beers).
A traditional German style of beer, this has become de rigueur in some of the better American microbreweries. Alaskan Brewing Company, out of Juneau, Alaska, was one of the first back in 1988.
They make a fine smoked porter using malt that has been smoked using alder wood. This is an intense beer and needs to age (unless you’re inclined to using liquid smoke as an everyday condiment).
This porter wants to just hang out in your cellar (you have a cellar, right?) for a year or two, but will keep well for up to 10 years if kept in a cool dark place.
As it ages the smoke will mellow and meld with other flavours in the beer.
I recommend starting to collect the different vintages (yes, beers have vintages like wine) and once you have several years stored away, do a vertical tasting (comparison tasting year by year, probably oldest to youngest, so you work your way forward in intensity).
Do the tasting with a bunch of like-minded friends – that’s worth a decade of birthday presents.
Smoke aside, a good adulterated beer that can be enjoyed by many is Young’s Double Chocolate stout.
This British stout, available at the Whitehorse liquor store, is a good starter beer for the stout hater. (I admit it, I used to be one of them.)
In addition to the chocolate quality imparted by roasted malts, the brewery adds actual chocolate to the beer.
Young’s is a great lounge-by-the-fire beer: slightly sweet, chocolatey, minerally with a fairly dry finish and low hop bitterness. It would probably make a delicious ice cream float or a good beverage accompaniment to a chocolate mousse.
The great thing about beer is that it comes from humble beginnings.
Its status of being the liquid equivalent to bread means that it goes with everything and you can put a lot of weird stuff in it. Molson Canadian and pickle juice anyone?