- On February 19, 2016
It’s been a long day. You’re saddled up to the bar (or on a couch at home, no judging), you want to quench your thirst and wash away the day and what do you look to do that with? Beer and a bump, homie. A Boilermaker, shot-and-a-beer, Citywide Special, whatever you call it, it’s the perfect tool for its purpose. Even Garrison Keillor liked them! There’s nothing like the simple and natural pairing of a beer and a spirit which can scratch that particular itch quite so well. This week, we’re taking that a step further with our first edition of MN Beer & a Bump!
Pairing beer and spirits together is not as difficult as it may seem. The intense nature of distilled spirits almost cries out for the cold and refreshing elixir that is beer. The key is to find a harmonious duo, two separate alcoholic entities that, when paired, come together to create something more than the sum of its parts. If you can find a common thread between two beverages, you can let both of them shine bright like a diamond with the highlights of each coming through while simultaneously complimenting each other like two puzzle pieces. Think Guinness and Bailey’s. It’s one of the oldest, most natural spirit and beer pairings. We guarantee even your grandparents have had it, and would gladly take another! The creaminess of the Irish cream marries with the tiny bubbles of nitro in Guinness, and the toffee/coffee flavor of Bailey’s pairs with the roasted malt flavor from the stout. Finding something that pairs as well as those two Irish nationals is the goal for us Minnesotans today.
We’ll start with the lightest. Indeed Mexican Honey is an imperial lager brewed with orange blossom honey and Amarillo hops. While it’s loosely inspired by the crushable golden lagers that you might find on a beach vacation, Mexican Honey is in a league of its own. Clocking in at 8% ABV, it features floral, almost minty aromas as well as a slightly sweet finish. The beer is insanely drinkable and comes in pounders for just that reason. We chose to pair it with the 11 Wells Prototype Rye. The whiskey has pronounced notes of dark fruit and sugar cane. If tasted blind, you could easily confuse it for a Pussers-type rum. The fruit and spice notes from the rye pair well with the mint nose from the Mexican Honey, as it is a natural flavor combination and a taste often associated with rye whiskey itself! The whiskey is young, so it is naturally a bit brash and aggressive, which makes the cooling and laid back Mexican Honey even more perfect to pair.
Northeast is fertile ground for the burgeoning beer and spirits scene in Minneapolis, so it’s only natural that we find a pairing entirely made in that area. Bauhaus Stargrazer is a German-style Schwarzbier; dark, rich, and roasty, with notes of bitter chocolate and coffee. It’s cold-fermented with a clean lager yeast to avoid being too heavy and it clocks in at just 5% ABV, making it the perfect session beer when you’re in the mood for something dark. Now what’s a natural pairing for something dark, chocolate and coffee rich? Something fruity, of course! Tattersall’s Sour Cherry liqueur is one of our all-time MN favorite craft spirits. Seriously, we can’t say enough good things. The approach is soft and unctuous, with bright, tart cherry flavor, leading into a rounded, slightly sour finish. It is a fruit liqueur that actually tastes like fruit instead of sugar. We’re not saying we’d pair the Sour Cherry with everything but… Actually that’s exactly what we’re saying.
The last pairing is something of a no-brainer. Bent Paddle was once the brewer of all the mash Vikre Distillery used to make its spirits. The North Shore duo has been not-so-quietly putting out fantastic products from the frozen north for a while now, and the two products paired here are truly an exceptional example of what a pairing can be. Bent Paddle put a cold-weather twist on an IPA with Harness by balancing the intense hop presence with a complex malt backbone. Harness uses a blend of highly aromatic, dank, aggressive hops including Centennial, Simcoe, and Citra. It pours a deep copper color, and malt bill includes oats, rye, and barley, standing up to the hop intensity with sweet and spicy notes as well as a full body. The bold, dry hop profile and earthy malt bill pairs very well with the unique Vikre Cedar gin. The cedar wood steeping gives the gin a toasted, slightly woody quality without overpowering the botanicals. There is a light fruit note reminiscent of blackcurrants and classic juniper bitterness on the finish. The fruitiness helps balance the spicy/resinous flavor from the beer and creates this flavor duality that makes you want to constantly sip back and forth between the two glasses. Or make a mouth sandwich and drink them both simultaneously!