Last year, just when it seemed like beer cocktails were about to take off, nobody else seemed to believe in their cause, which is too bad, since they help to demonstrate not only the versatility of beer, but also of cocktails. They’ve lower in alcohol and utilize entirely different flavor combinations. At the tail end of the L.A. Craft Beer Crawl in September, The Varnish General Manager Chris Bostick and bartender Devon Tarby made two very convincing beer cocktails that were both rooted in history.
The Picon Biere was a refreshing variation on a classic Alsatian beer cocktail that combined Telegraph White beer, Torani Amer, lemon juice and sugar. They also produced the Double Black Diamond, a not necessarily weather appropriate cocktail (it was in the 80’s) that was Bostick’s modification of a beer stout flip from the mid 1800s. The drink incorporated Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter, Goslings black seal rum, a whole egg, sugar and nutmeg.
My recent trip to San Francisco yielded the latest beer cocktail that will hopefully help to convince more bartenders that the sub-genre is worth a closer look. This time, the cocktail wasn’t rooted in history. Instead, Luca’s Brew was the byproduct of Prospect bartender Chase Williamson’s time as the bar manager for nearby 21st Amendment Brewery. Their full liquor license allowed him to experiment with the house-made beer. He paired Papa Parks Porter with coffee and sambuca, Live Free or Die IPA with Cherry Heering and bourbon, and Hell or High Watermelon Wheat beer with gin, served in a champagne flute.
The first Williamson cocktail that head bartender Brooke Arthur approved for Prospect’s menu is Luca’s Brew ($11). The drink involves Spanish brandy, lemon, Angostura bitters, a topper of Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale and fresh grated nutmeg. Williamson described the cocktail as “variation on a French 75,” which some people believe should involve brandy instead of gin. He also opted for an ale float instead of champagne. Williamson described the drink as a “perfect holiday cocktail.” The word “perfect” isn’t part of my repertoire, but it certainly had good fall-forward flavor. Williamson said that Luca’s Brew is available until January 1, when the pumpkin ale disappears until next year.