Do you ever mix your beers? Now, to be clear, I’m not referring to the trend of beer cocktails you may have seen from the likes of Brewing Up Cocktails. I’m referring to the practice of mixing two more more beers together in the same glass. Most craft beer drinkers I know have, to my knowledge, never actually tried this practice (other than perhaps a black and tan), but it can yield some interesting results.
The most common ‘mixed’ beer drink, and possibly the oldest, is probably a black and tan. It’s created when a stout and a pale ale or pale lager are mixed in a attractive, two-tiered pour in a single glass. The earliest recorded usage of the term in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1889. Although, when a black and tan is poured properly, technically speaking it isn’t a ‘mixed’ beer since the stout and the pale ale or pale lager are kept separate in the glass – with the stout floating on top of the ale or lager. This is done using careful pouring over the back of a spoon or a Black and Tan Turtle. There are several different variations on the style, but the most common is still stout mixed with pale ale or lager.
Of course, you can also buy pre-mixed black and tan beers. One of the oldest and best known is Yuengling’s Original Black and Tan. These pre-mixed versions don’t retain the aesthetically pleasing two-tiered look since they become fully mixed within the bottle or can. As a result, some black and tan purists disregard them, but they do exist and there’s no doubt that the mixture of a stout with a pale ale or lager can definitely be a tasty combination.
Another popular mixed beer drink which, technically speaking, also isn’t really a mixed beer drink since it contains only one type of beer, is a Radler (also sometimes called a ‘Shandy’). This is when you take a Pilsner, Hefeweizen, Wit or other lighter beer and mix it half and half with lemonade or lemon-lime soda. This light and refreshing combination was first concocted in 1922 by a Bavarian man named Franz Xaver Kugler. He was hosting a gathering for hikers and cyclists on a hot day in June, when he realized he didn’t have quite enough beer to go around for everyone. So, he decided to mix what beer he had left with lemon-lime soda to extend the supply. It was quite popular and Mr. Kugler dubbed his new creation the ‘Radler’ after the cyclists in attendance (radler is the German word for cyclist).
Summer may be fading, but the next time the weather gets warm, I highly recommend you try mixing yourself up a Radler. They’re extremely refreshing and satisfying on a hot day, and also help slow your alcohol consumption a bit, since half of what you’re drinking is lemon-lime soda. Try it with a few different beers and find your perfect combination.
One mixed beer drink that has been gaining a bit more popularity is raspberry stout. This mix is created when a dark stout is mixed with a raspberry Lambic at a ratio of about 3 or 4 to 1 (3 or 4 parts stout to 1 part raspberry Lambic). Stout is already known as a beer style that pairs well with many deserts. In fact, many places even offer stout floats (a mixture of stout & ice cream), so mixing a stout with a sweeter flavor like raspberry makes sense. Hmm. Now I want to try a raspberry stout float. Yum!
Pike Brewing Company in Seattle has picked up on the popularity of this mix, as they found many patrons ordering it on their own. They would ask the bartender to pour a bit of Lindman’s Raspberry Lambic into a pint glass, and then top it up with Pike’s XXXXX Stout. So, Pike eventually added it to their regular drink menu (and cleverly started charging $1 more for it). The next time you’re at a place that carries Lindeman’s or some other raspberry lambic on tap, try ordering a raspberry stout (you may have to explain to them how to pour it). As a homebrewer, I cut out the middle-man years ago and created my own raspberry stout using real raspberries during fermentation. It’s really a delicious mix.
Cascadian Dark Ales or CDAs are a relatively new take on the classic India Pale Ale or IPA style. Who first created the style is a subject of much debate, but two of the earliest known examples come from Rouge Brewing out of Oregon and Phillips Brewing out of Victoria BC, Canada. Rogue’s ‘Skull Splitter’ was brewer John Maier’s take on a ‘black’ version of Rogue’s already popular ‘Brutal Bitter IPA’ and Phillips’ Black Tongue was brewer Matt Phillips’ take on the style, which he dubbed an ‘India Dark Ale’.
Before commercial examples of this style started appearing, however, many beer drinkers were experimenting by mixing rich, roasty or chocolaty stouts with hoppy IPAs or double IPAs to create that rich and hoppy flavor combination and dark look that CDAs are known for. Was the creation of the CDA style a response to the beer drinkers creating these mixes? Nobody knows for sure, but it’s certainly conceivable and the style has been very successful so far. I’ve even seen some beer drinkers still mixing their CDAs with other hoppy or dark beers, to achieve the exact balance they’re looking for.
My first experience with mixing beers, beyond the basic black and tan, was way back in 1997 at Marin Brewing Company in Larkspur California. One of my favorite breweries from the San Francisco Bay Area, Marin Brewing has been operating since 1989 and brews some great beers that, unfortunately, are not currently distributed to the Seattle, WA area. I’m hoping that will change sometime in the future.
I was there with a few friends and we struck up a conversation about different beers with the bartender. He started getting creative and placing different mixed beer combinations in front of us to try. Some were hits; others were misses. One of the mixes that stuck out in my memory, however, was a mix of Marin Brewing’s Blueberry Ale with their Doppelweizen (now called Hefe Doppel Weizen). This combination of strong (7.0%) double-wheat beer with the delicous kiss of blueberry was a great combination. It tamed the sweetness of the blueberry ale, but left enough of the blueberry flavor coming through to beautifully compliment the lemon and clove-like characteristics of the Doppleweizen. We also tried this combination with Marin Brewing’s Peach Ale, which was good but not as delicious (at least to me) as the mix with blueberry ale.
Other tasty combinations I’ve tried over the years include:
- A Chocolate Stout mixed with a Cherry Wheat (Think chocolate stout covered cherries.)
- A Pilsner mixed with a Double IPA (This gives the pilsner a ‘kick’ in both strength and hop flavor/aroma.)
- A Belgian Ale mixed with a Brown Ale (This can have mixed results depending on the beers selected for mixing – selecting the right Belgian Ale is key.)
- A Lager mixed with a Hard Cider (Known in some places as a ‘Snakebite’.)
Considering the vast number of beer styles available today these are, of course, only a few of the possible combinations. But I want to hear from you! What beer mixes have you tried that you found tasty? Are there combinations I haven’t mentioned here that you beleive are worth a try? Post back in the comments, either here or on Facbook, Twitter or Google Plus, and let me know what your favorite beer mixes are. I’ll update this post with your suggestions and together, we can help each other discover interesting new taste combinations.
Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.