While I don’t usually write about it, my hometown of Kansas City is home to more than great distilleries and cocktail bars. It also has many awesome breweries. The homebrew scene is alive and well and many small homebrewers have turned their passion into a business. One of these businesses is Crane Brewery in Raytown, MO. They make many great beers, including numerous sour beers that I enjoy. I reached out to them to see if they would like to partner up on some great beer cocktails with me, and they said yes. (I generally only make beer cocktails when mixing up my grandma’s margaritas.) These recipes are easy to make and are perfect for summer entertaining.
The Best Beer for Cocktails
Before we get into specific cocktails that are good with beer, let’s discuss which beers to use. While it’s certainly possible to make a cocktail with any beer, there are a few styles of beer that work better than others. Here’s some guidance on a few popular styles to choose from:
- Lagers: are brewed and conditioned at low temperatures. You’ll find many beer cocktails calling for pale lagers in particular. This is because they are light in flavor and can sneak into cocktails easily without overpowering the drink. They are the most common commercial-style (ie. not craft) beer on the market.
- Pilsners: are a type of pale lagers that originated in the Czech Republic. Even though they are a sub-type of the previous style, they are popular enough to be mentioned.
- Wheat Beers: are brewed with more wheat than barley and encompass my favorite beers for cocktails. It includes gose (salty and sour), weiss (cloudy sour), and lambic (wild yeast) beers.
- Pale Ales: are made with a pale malt using warm fermentation. The name is a bit of a misnomer as they are generally golden to amber brown in color. They are generally hop-forward in flavor with a medium-bodied flavor. (If you are unfamiliar with “hops” – here’s an article you might like.)
- IPAs (India Pale Ale): sit under the category of Pale Ales but are hoppier in flavor and higher in ABV, typically. They have a distinct flavor that really adds something unique to a cocktail.
Simple Beer Cocktails
When Summer rolls around and friends stop by, it’s nice to have something easy to serve. While a glass of wine or a beer may suffice, my guests are typically looking to me for a cocktail. It’s great to have a couple of easy drinks in mind to make. These don’t require many ingredients, use things you probably already have on hand, and will only take you a minute to make. Best of all, they suit a range of tastes.
The Mimosa–made with orange juice and champagne or prosecco–has long dominated as the brunch cocktail of choice. However, the beermosa shouldn’t be overlooked. With so many incredible, craft beers to choose from, the beermosa can take on different flavor profiles quite easily. You can use almost any beer from a wheat to an IPA but for this cocktail I used a gose-style beer which provided a juicy pop of flavor in the mouth.
- 2.5 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
- 3.5 oz Crane Gooseberry Gose (or any gose-style beer)
- 1 slice orange
- Add juice and beer to a stemless wine glass and lightly stir.
- Add orange slice garnish and serve.
This beer cocktail is similar to a Boilermaker, but uses tequila instead of vodka which provides a lot more flavor. The recipe calls for a basic tequila, but you could also make it with a bolder tequila or mezcal. The guava weiss is so delicious, but you could also use a wheat beer with hints of fruit in it. I served it up in a smaller quantity to fit the glass, but it’s also nice for when you want a smaller drink. Double or quadruple it for a batched tray of shots!
- 1 oz blanco tequila
- 3 oz Crane Guava Weiss (or other fruited sour beer)
- 2 barspoons Ancho Reyes
- smoked bbq salt
- (Optional) Dip mini-beer glass rim in honey and then into BBQ salt.
- Add tequila, beer, and ancho reyes to the glass and stir.
Manhattans are great for a night with friends. They are easy to batch ahead of time, or to mix up as needed. This version replaces the bitters with a Cold IPA, which is a slightly crisper version of an IPA that’s brewed more like a lager. The drink was created by bartenders at the Pine Box Rock Shop and tastes like a traditional Manhattan with a really nice pop of hops. I actually think this is so good, I might switch out the bitters for beer more often. And, special thanks to Fountain City Ice for the beautiful clear ice in this drink, and the next two cocktails.
- 2 oz rye whiskey
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- 1 oz Crane Cold IPA or Farmhouse IPA
- Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice.
- Stir gently to dilute and strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass.
More Complex Beer Cocktails
Tiki drinks are always a crowd pleaser. This riff on a Mai Tai is from the book “Cocktails on Tap: The Art of Mixing Spirits and Beer“. If you are getting into the flavors of beer in cocktails, you might want to pick up a copy. I like how balanced the flavors are with the hoppiness (or bitterness) of the IPA, which is sometimes more bitter than I like. Plus, with summer just around the corner, this beer cocktail gives you an excuse to pop in a fresh flower or a mini umbrella.
- 3 oz Crane New England IPA
- 1 oz aged rum
- 1 oz unaged rum
- 1 oz lime juice
- 0.5 oz orgeat
- 0.5 oz cointreau (or dry curaçao)
- Add all ingredients except the beer to a shaker with ice.
- Shake for 15-30 seconds until cold and strain into a glass with ice.
- Pour beer in slowly and garnish with an umbrella (optional).
In a blog post about Zirbenz, I mentioned this incredible riff on a gimlet that I love. Created by The Campground, it tastes like a forest in the best way. The original recipe calls for spruce tip tea infused gin, which takes a little time to prepare. Luckily, Crane makes the most delicious Tea Weiss that works in place of the gin infusion. It’s perfectly tart and balances out the simple syrup and Zirbenz.
Campground Gimlet w/Tea Weiss
- 1 oz Letherbee gin (or your favorite dry gin)
- 1 oz Zirbenz
- 1 oz Crane Tea Weiss
- 0.5 oz lime juice
- 0.25 oz rich simple syrup (2:1, sugar:water)
- Add all ingredients except the beer to a shaker with ice.
- Shake 20-30 seconds until the shaker tin is frosty.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass and top with the Tea Weiss.
I hope you enjoy these great summer beer cocktails. If you’re looking for Crane Brewing’s beers, you can find them in the Midwestern United States. You can also order Crane Beer through Tavour, which offers beer for sale in states where they’re not normally distributed. Let me know what your favorite cocktails with beer are, I’d love to hear from you!