A shot and a beer: The combination couldn’t be more simple, yet it’s clear proof that the whole can be more than the sum of its parts. Combining a frosty brew with a shot of the hard stuff is a great way to better appreciate the unique flavors of both, either by highlighting similar notes in very different drinks or by contrasting taste and texture to make each one stand out more fully.
No matter what your favorite beer style, here are a few shot suggestions to try. Whether you’re shooting one and chugging the other, trading sips or even making a full-on Boilermaker, these combos might just blow your mind.
IPA OR PALE ALE & HIGHLAND PARK 12 YEAR OLD SINGLE MALT SCOTCH WHISKY ($55)
Hops and smoke are two great tastes that taste great together (and not just because hops and cannabis are in the same botanical family). The peaty, campfire notes in the Highland Park clear away the resinous bitterness of a hoppy beer, so that each sip is as refreshing as the first. And the subtly sweet sherry notes behind that smoke go nicely with the malty character in any beer.
STOUT OR PORTER & WESTLAND AMERICAN SINGLE MALT WHISKEY ($70)
Beer and malt whiskey are made from the same thing: barley. But while brewers often use a whole rainbow of barleys roasted to different levels of caramelization, distillers usually stick to one type of lightly roasted grain. Seattle’s Westland Distillery flips the script, using five different types of malt, including the deep-brown varieties usually made into dark beers. As a result, its whiskey shares the coffee, chocolate and nutty notes of a hearty porter or stout.
LAGER & PARTIDA BLANCO TEQUILA ($40)
Though refreshing, lagers tend to have a less distinctive flavor than many ales, so they go well with a more emphatic spirit, and tequila’s unmistakable grassy flavor fits the bill perfectly. Tequila is of course a classic pairing with a Corona, Tecate or other south-of-the-border lager, but it’s just as tasty with any lighter-bodied brew. Partida’s lovely blanco is especially forceful, with strong vegetal and peppery notes that can make even a boring macrobrew more interesting.
BELGIAN & BLUECOAT BARREL RESERVE AMERICAN DRY GIN ($35)
Yes, that’s right: I am suggesting you pour a shot of straight gin. There’s only one spirit whose mix of flavors approaches the complexity you get in a funky, sour Belgian beer, and it’s botanical gin. In addition to flavors of juniper, coriander and citrus, Bluecoat Barrel Reserve also picks up lovely vanilla and caramel notes from spending three months in new oak, giving it a mellow base that keeps all those different flavors from clashing. Sipping it with a Belgian beer is like drinking an elaborate craft cocktail—you’ll keep picking out new notes with every sip.
WHEAT BEER & MARTELL VSOP COGNAC ($39)
When you combine the citrusy notes of a wheat beer (they’re often served with a lemon or orange wedge for a reason) with a rich and fruity cognac, the combination of sweet, sour and oaky mimics a classic Sidecar cocktail—and there’s a reason that drink’s been popular for nearly a century. A VSOP cognac is the best choice, not so young and brash that it has to be mixed into a cocktail, but also not so heavily aged that it loses its youthful assertiveness. Martell’s VSOP is one of the best out there, bringing big spice and raisin notes and lovely smoothness.
BROWN OR AMBER ALE & ENGLISH HARBOUR 5 YEAR OLD RUM ($30)
Though brown and amber beers can have varying levels of hoppiness, what they all share is a gentle sweetness and moderate body. Match that with a good aged rum, which adds some minerally complexity without distracting from the beer’s subtleness. The Antiguan English Harbour is an excellent value for a long-aged rum, bringing molasses and caramel as well as a bit of toasted coconut to the party.
AND NOW, A WORD FROM SOME BARTENDERS