Heresy: A Guide to Beer Cocktails, from College-grade Concoctions to Drinks Worthy of the Most Dignified Beer Buff

Beer Advocate Issue #1, January 2007


Bars create dilemmas. Upon entry, the little narrator inside your skull asks, “Should I get a beer, wine or a cocktail?” If you’re like me, wine is usually off the list right quick. That leaves a difficult choice between two options. On the rare occasion when you find yourself standing frozen in front of the bartender, there may be another solution: the beer cocktail.

I realize even suggesting such a thing is considered heresy of the highest order in some better-beer circles, but before you tie me to a post and go looking for matches, let me explain. I’m not necessarily advocating any of these—I’m simply pointing them out in the event any of you feel like getting a little more experimental with your brews. (And hell, if brewers can age beer in wine casks, what’s so wrong with drinkers mixing beer with, say, some Bailey’s?)

These cocktails can take several forms. There are the droppers, in which shot glasses of various hard alcohols are physically dropped into pints of beer; the substitutions, in which beer is swapped in for the traditional spirit; and the original, unique concoctions. In some beer cocktails, specific brands are called for; in others, you can experiment with various beers.

The Droppers

The most controversial (some might say, undignified) of the beer cocktails. These usually require, appear near, or lead to, severe intoxication. Deliberately omitted are such college-favored Frankenstein monstrosities like the Natty Russian, a base combination of Natty Light and cheap vodka.

Depth Charge

A mix of spirits and beer that involves dropping a shot glass of liquor into your beer. When it hits bottom the beer fizzes up, forcing the drinker to down the whole concoction in one giant gulp. There are variations, such as mixing up the type of liquor (whiskey, vodka, tequila or what have you) and even setting the shot on fire beforehand. A common quote heard when ordering a depth charge is, “Once you drop, you cannot stop.”

Irish Car Bomb

This politically incorrect dropper (also known as a Belfast Bomber) calls for a glass of Guinness Stout and a half-shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream with a half-shot of Irish whiskey. It’s important to drink this in one long pull, as the cream will curdle in the beer. Also, take note: If you’re in Ireland or England, you might be a little cautious about ordering one of these suckers.

Flaming Dr. Pepper

Take one shot glass full of amaretto with Everclear or Bacardi 151 floated on top then set it on fire. Drop the shot glass into a mug of beer then drink the whole thing.

Remember, you should always be careful about mixing intoxicated drinkers and fire. I once saw a guy attempt to down a flaming shooter. He not only burned all the hair off his face and got a dirty, wet bar towel on his head to put it out, but he was dangerously close to exploding his stomach if he had swallowed it. Of course, we all laughed and laughed and laughed. Then we ordered another round.

Substitutes & Originals

Just about any cocktail can be converted into a beer cocktail if you’re willing to experiment. Play with proportions and always avoid ice.

Red Eye

Imagine a Bloody Mary with beer instead of vodka. That’s it. Pretty simple. Some recipes call for Clamato juice, and most say you should have more beer than tomato juice, proportionately. Either way, it’s a legendary slayer of hangovers.


Take a pint glass and fill it half with Stout and half with hard cider. ’Nuff said.


A classic English drink that dates back to the 1700s, this one involves filling a beer glass with lager, and adding ginger ale or lemonade. Proportions vary by drinker, so you might want to experiment a little with this one. Best consumed while swaddled in Harris Tweed.

Black & Tan

A classic mix, also known as a Half & Half. The origin of this concoction has been traced back to the late 1800s in the British Isles, and today is served mostly with Guinness and Bass beer. Guinness is the key to pouring this beer, as the Stout has a lighter gas used in its carbonation and will float on top, creating a two-layered drink.

Contrary to popular belief, the British paramilitary reserve in the Irish War of Independence took its name from the beer concoction, not the other way around. Because of this, you should never order a Black & Tan in Ireland, since it would mark you as an extreme loyalist and buy you nothing but trouble from the local Feinians.

Black Velvet

Another old standard, ideal for rich descendants of poor Irish immigrants looking to bridge the present and the past. Or maybe not. In any case, combine Stout and champagne, 50/50, and marvel as worlds collide.


There are many variations of this Mexican beer cocktail. Some prepare it like a beer Bloody Mary (see Red Eye), but traditionally it has no tomato juice in it. The Michelada is best used as a restorative drink with breakfast after a long, hard night of drinking. In a salt-rimmed glass, squeeze the juice of one lime. Add a dash of Tabasco sauce, a few liberal dashes of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Maggi Seasoning and an optional splash of Angostura bitters. Then pour a dark Mexican beer such as Negra Modelo and drink up. I prefer mine with about a quarter-shot each of soy, Worcestershire and Maggi, which makes the drink very salty.

Hop, Skip and Go Naked

I would be remiss if I didn’t include this one. Take one beer and add a shot of gin, a spoonful of bar sugar and lemon juice. It’s also served as a punch, in which a quart of beer, a can of frozen lemonade (or pink lemonade) and a half-bottle of gin, vodka or whiskey is used. In this form, it’s served mostly as a social lubricant at parties, ensuring plenty of hopping, skipping and possibly going naked.

An upscale variation, which I learned from mixologist Pat Carden in Boise, Idaho, is the Custom Trampler: A beer cocktail with Carlsberg Elephant beer, Hornitos Reposado tequila, a spoonful of bar sugar and lemon juice. May be heretical, but it sure is good.


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