Alfonso Lizana

Beer is the go-to drink for many yet an uncommon addition when it comes to cocktails. But that’s all starting to change, with bartenders looking to the vast world of beer to add a unique point of difference to drinks. From a stout to an XPA, there’s much to explore when it comes to teaming beer with spirits.

Hospitality speaks to Bad Hombres’ Jose Artidiello, Maybe Mae’s Nick Corletto, and Whisky & Alement’s Julian White about how they’re showcasing beer across different cocktails.

The Michelada is a beer-based cocktail from Mexico that is likened to a Bloody Mary thanks to its use of lime teamed with spices and chilli. It’s on the menu at Bad Hombres in Sydney’s Surry Hills, but it wasn’t an easy addition for General Manager Jose Artidiello, who grew up in Mexico.

“I must admit I was reluctant a few years ago because I sensed people didn’t really understand the essence of it,” he says. “It was more of a secret menu item at first for
people from Mexico or those who had travelled there and were familiar with the original.”

The cocktail is made with beer, lime juice, hot sauce and soy or Worcestershire sauce before it’s poured into a rimmed glass. The original is often riffed, with bartenders adding in tomato juice or chamoy, a sweet chilli sauce made from apricots, dried hibiscus flowers, and chile de arbol. “We have our own spice mix and signature Bad Hombres red chill hot sauce which is the same one we use in our spicy margaritas,” says Artidiello.

The Bad Hombres team creates Jose’s Micheladas from the beer menu for an extra $3. “We named it Jose’s because it is exactly the way I would make it for myself,” says Artidiello. The GM says the choice of beer is vital when it comes to crafting a top-notch version of a Michelada.

“Beer is to the Michelada is what tequila is to the margarita,” he says. While customers can choose any beer, the Tecate lager and the Pacífico pilsner are recommended. “I believe Micheladas work best with lagers,” says Artidiello. “You want a crisp, easy-todrink beer that goes well with the citrus and spice mix — it is a summer drink after all.”

After his initial hesitancy to offer Micheladas, Artidiello has noticed an uptake in guests ordering the drink. “They have started to gather more popularity,” he says. “We have a happy hour special every Wednesday with cheap tinnies and Micheladas which has helped introduce it to our clientele.”

Melbourne’s Whisky & Alement has had a Boilermaker on the menu since 2011. The no-fuss drink consists of two components: a shot of whisky alongside a glass of beer — and that’s it. “I’d say it’s usually something people have at the start of the night,” says Co-Founder Julian White. “People will have a sip of beer then a sip of whisky before going back to the beer for some refreshment.”

White says the Boilermaker was a way to make whisky a more accessible option for patrons. “In 2011, whisky was served in Melbourne as a special occasion luxury item when it really didn’t need to be. Putting it next to an everyday beer made it more accessible.”

Whisky & Alement has a menu devoted to Boilermakers, each of which have a point of
difference. “We like to focus on the special parts of the beer and then we’ll try to match a whisky to complement or contrast those characters,” says White. “I like to approach it in two different ways: is it going to be a harmonious matching of the beer and the whisky or is it going to be more of a contrasting match?”

The list features 10 Boilermakers which cover a pilsner, American pale ale, brown ale, hazy IPA, sour, dark ale, and a few unique options. An example of a harmoniously paired Boilermaker is the Wild and Warming which teams Noodledoof Brewing’s Nitro Irish stout with Springbank whisky. “Being a dark beer that’s quite heavy and thick, we needed something of equal richness to sit alongside it,” says White. “The Springbank 15 Year Old single malt Scotch whisky from Campbeltown has an industrial smokiness to it which bounces off the slightly astringent malts in the stout.”

The Stonefruit Medley is an example of a more contrasting flavour combination of the Jane Doe 12 Assemblage Hors Série from Brassserie Dunham and Auchroisk whisky from James Eadie. White says the sour, fruity notes of the beer contrast with the neutral, gentle notes of the whisky.

The Stonefruit Medley Boilermaker also gives guests the chance to try a special, more expensive tipple in a smaller format. “Sometimes we like to use really big-format
beers — like a 750ml beer with 30ml whisky,” says White. “If you were to buy the bottle, it would be $40, but when you pour 150ml, it’s a lot more affordable.”

Peel Street Corpse Reviver
Adelaide’s Maybe Mae has built a reputation for its cocktails, so much so the venue has a Hall of Fame menu. The Peel Street Corpse Reviver is one of the cocktails that has cemented its place in the line-up and is a drink that “looks like a small beer, drinks more like a house party”, says Owner Nick Corletto.

The Peel Street Corpse Reviver features a house-made spicy ginger and honey syrup that is shaken with lemon juice and London dry gin before being strained into a butcher glass with ice. Beer is the final ingredient which is used to top up the drink. “It’s all about lengthening slightly, so volume and balance, but it absolutely gives some effervescence and fizz,” says Corletto.

Currently, the Peel Street Corpse Reviver is served with Mismatch Session ale. “It’s got great body and balance of hops,” says Corletto. “It gels especially well with the ginger, which is the key consideration when we pick what beer to use.”

But it’s not the first beer cocktail for the venue, with Corletto recalling a former bartender who had an affinity for using beer in drinks. “He [Jed Waters] typically found a good pairing with beer and agave spirits,” says Corletto. “[A cocktail with] mezcal, red grapefruit, crystal malt syrup, and galaxy hop bitters was one of his best belters
a few years ago.”

While it may not be the first ingredient to come to mind when crafting a cocktail, beer can work in various ways to complement and bring new flavours and textures into drinks.