The hottest thing in your glass this fall will also be the coolest. “Beertails are the next ‘big things’ in mixology,” says Adam Seger, creator of Hum Botanical Liquor. “It is the perfect storm of the craft beer explosion and mixology renaissance.” Get ready to see them everywhere. But the best examples won’t be merely shades of the boilermaker or micheladas. True beer cocktails will follow closer to the classic definition of a cocktail—spirits, sugar, bitters and water. Or, in this case, beer.
Seger developed the rules for beertails, “the most chemically complex cocktails,” with wine expert Doug Frost and Southern Wine & Spirits’ Francesco Lafranconi and then revealed them at a Tales of the Cocktail seminar in July, along with Belgian beer importer Wendy Littlefield. Collectively, the rules are called the Rheinheitzgebeer, a play on Rheinheitzgebot, the Bavarian purity order of 1516 that defined beer as water, barley and hops (what did they know about yeast back then?)
The idea, Seger explained, is to build the cocktail in a pint glass half filled with ice, one that complements or contrasts the chosen beer (or vice versa). Familiarize yourself with the beer and the cocktail separately, then top the cocktail with about 5 ounces of beer. The brew’s effervescence will act like an amplifier, delivering the combined aromas to your nose while you drink your way through the beer layer down to the brackish place where beer-meets-cocktail, then finish the cocktail.
“Beer adds a texture that takes cocktail enjoyment to the next level,” Seger says. His first beertail, the Birds & the Brews, was inspired by memories of Strasbourg and its Amer Picon (Alsatian orange bitters, typically served with French country ale).
More insight: Lagers add bubbles and sweetness. Sours amp up acidity. Malty beers like malt whiskies. Chocolate-malt beers love sweet red sparkers, such as brachetto. Hops compete with other bitter cocktail components; save the IPAs for cleansing the palate after enjoying beertails. But remember: Don’t shake beer in a cocktail shaker. You’ve been warned.
The Birds & The Brews
In a cocktail shaker, combine 1½ ounces Hum Botanical Spirit ($40, Total Wine & More), 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice, ½ ounce honey syrup (honey thinned with water for a better consistency) and 1½ ounces strong-brewed Rare Tea Cellars Gingerbread Dreams rooibos tea (RareTeaCellar.com) or the best rooibos tea you can afford. Add ice, cover, shake and strain into a pint glass half-filled with fresh ice, and garnish with a basil leaf you’ve slapped between your hands. Serve alongside a cold bottle of Saison DuPont beer.