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Friday, December 31, 2010

Brews, with Booze: Our Favorite Beer Cocktails

Posted By on Fri, Dec 31, 2010 at 11:29 AM

click to enlarge The Alembic's Vice Grip. - JASON HENRY
  • Jason Henry
  • The Alembic's Vice Grip.

"You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!"

"You got your peanut butter in my chocolate!"

Sometimes the sum of a culinary collision is greater than its parts. Over the past couple years, this concept has been thoroughly explored in S.F.'s thriving cocktail culture. While local bartenders have become well versed in unorthodox cocktail ingredients and preparations, few cocktail slingers have ventured to incorporate one readily available and versatile ingredient: beer. We're not talking about haphazardly dropping a shot of sake into your Sapporo, or tossing some Bailey's into your Guinness. Offhand blending of macro-produced beers won't do the trick either (see the Eclipse drink at TGI Friday's -- a mashup of Guinness and Blue Moon -- that presumably only exists out of novelty). With some thoughtful consideration of beer's enormous range of flavors, the possibilities for cocktail-boosting additions are staggering. Here are some local libations that are already fortifying their booze with brews:

1. "Beet, pilsner, gin" cocktail at Aziza ($10)

A study in earthiness. The beer knows its role as a background player, offering a touch of body, a slightly grassy hop aroma, and a hint of bitterness that balances the sweetness of the beet juice.

click to enlarge The market shot at Frances sometimes includes beer. - JASON HENRY
  • Jason Henry
  • The market shot at Frances sometimes includes beer.

2. Market shot at Frances (rotates daily, call 621-3870 for details: $3 per 3-ounce shot)

This is always a surprise. Freshly squeezed juices and purées are paired with wine, beer, or other liquids that satisfy the artful whimsy of the beverage coordinator. Luckily, the shot often involves one of the local Magnolia beers that flow from Frances' taps. On a recent visit, apples and pears were puréed, strained, and mingled with Magnolia's Weather Report Wheat Ale. The slight tartness of the beer held up well to the sticky sweetness of the fruit, and the presence of coriander in the beer created a spiced apple pie effect in the finished cocktail.

3. Vice Grip at the Alembic ($11)

Feeling indecisive? This drink contains liquor, wine, coffee, and beer -- you can't go wrong. A mixture of coffee-flavored rum liqueur and Brachetto d'Acqui red wine is topped with a foam made with Marin Brewing's Point Reyes Porter. While the dark body, tan head, and aroma of roasty beer trick the senses into thinking this is simply a porter parading as a cocktail, the first sip immediately refutes this notion. The liqueur and wine blending suggests port wine, while the beer foam lends a toasty, nutty element that ties the room together.

For any aspiring home mixologists/hopheads in the audience, here's a beer cocktail (featuring the Bay Area's most lauded hop bomb) guaranteed to help you ring in the New Year with a bang, courtesy of the self-proclaimed "hoppiest place on Earth":

The Cham-Pliny

2 ounces Roederer Estate Brut Champagne

3 ounces Russian River Brewing Co.'s Pliny the Elder Double IPA

Combine, and celebrate.

Go forth and explore! And remember: "Liquor with beer, you're in the clear."

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Jason Henry


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