Raise The Bar With Beer Cocktails

We probably had you at <em>beer</em>, but that won’t stop us from doing our duty by pimping your patio party with these recipes that will make you way cooler than the bro who just brought a (sad!) cooler.
Want to be the toast of your pre-race porch party or Memorial Day cookout? Beer cocktails are a fun way to spice up everyday brews. But what makes a good beer cocktail? Better yet, what should you avoid so you don’t make a bad one and embarrass yourself while wasting good beer? IM has your guide.
Amanda Wishin of Girls Pint Out, a national craft beer organization, says one of her favorite beer cocktails is a Radler, a low alcohol-by-volume (ABV) beer mixed with a fruity soda and gin. It’s quick and easy to make, and well-balanced. She also enjoys beer-garitas during the summer. She uses a winning recipe from a Girls Pint Out beer cocktail contest that recommends a growler of light beer, one can of frozen limeade, and that can of empty limeade refilled with tequila.
Overall, Wishin says to “keep it simple.” Hoppy beers and citrus drinks complement each other well because beers high in hops have fragrant notes. Stouts and porters go well with chocolate for a similar reason. But for all of the good decisions she’s benefited from, she’s had some misguided concoctions too.
“Be careful if you have competing flavors,” she says. “Don’t mix a dark beer with a citrusy drink.”
Steven Unrue, the culinary director of Sun King Brewery, says he likes to see what flavors he can pull out of a beer with a few ingredients, while also keeping it unfussy.
“We always want to try to play up the characteristics of the beer,” Unrue says. “Most importantly, if we’re making a beer cocktail, we want to be able to taste the beer. We’re not looking to hide it. We’re not looking to overpower it. We’re just not looking to disguise it at all.”
Unrue recommends avoiding double and triple IPAs because the level of hop bitterness could be too much to overcome—other flavors of the beer cocktail might get drowned out. Also, avoid using really expensive or rare beers. If it’s that much trouble to get the beer, just drink it as-is.
Chris Bly of Central State Brewing, whose sister bar, The Koelschip, features a rotating list of Central State beers, says his favorite beer cocktail is a gin Radler. His recommendation for those looking to create their own beer cocktails is pretty simple.
“Stick to flavor characters you know,” Bly says.
If you’re someone who makes cocktails, think about what makes you a fan of that cocktail, and consider beer  another ingredient. Bly says people should avoid dark, bitter, and strong beers with extreme tastes that will overpower the other flavors one might try to use in a beer cocktail.
Find a beer you like and stick with flavors you are comfortable with. If you’re a fan of margaritas, mix one up and top it off with a light beer. Fancy a nice old-fashioned? Follow the fruity flavor profile. If you try to use citrus with a Guinness, good luck tasting the citrus. Above all, keep the ABV low so you don’t burn out in the pits.
Nervous about experimenting on your own? The beer gurus at Central State Brewery and Sun King Brewery offered these tasty recipes to get you started:
Garden Mule
Half a 16-ounce can of Central State Garden beer (saving the other half for your second round)
4 ounces ginger beer
1 ounce vodka
Juice of one lime
Mint leaves
Muddle mint leaves and lime juice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Pour in Garden beer, ginger beer, and vodka, and stir over ice.
Garnish with mint.
Razzleblaster Bullet
4 ounces bourbon
2 ounces golden-raspberry syrup
12 ounces blood-orange soda
Orange peel
Pour bourbon and raspberry syrup in a Boston Shake glass filled with ice.
Stir until chilled.
Strain into 2 glasses and top with Sun King’s Razzleblaster Busey and blood-orange soda.
Serve with orange peel garnish.