On Sunday, one of the talks I attended was Beer Back: Beer's Integration in Cocktails hosted by Kevin Mabry of J.M. Curley and Kevin Martin of Eastern Standard. They began by addressing why beer? Beer is a three dimensional product that is sellable on its own but it can add so much to drinks; in a way, it is no different than sparkling wine but with a few additional features. These include:
• Effervescence/carbonation. This will help flavors and aromas to keep throughout the drink.
• Dryness or sweetness
• Bitter complexity from the hops
• Other flavor components like malt, roast, vanilla
Methodology was much focused on how to incorporate beer into cocktails. They recommended working backwards by picking a beer first and then adding the rest of the ingredients instead of using a beer float or other addition as a later thought. Develop the drink completely, and afterwards, try it with different beers to see if you can improve it. The beer should be colder than normally drinkable if possible to keep carbonation and to allow for drink layering. As for uses of beer in cocktails:
• Shaken with the drink. Utilize the dry shake akin to what is used with egg cocktails. While the proteins and other frothing agents in beer will likewise be emulsified, it is more important to degas the beer so the shaker does not pop open mid-shake.
• Rolling down a spoon. Pour the beer down a spoon (especially one with a twisted handle) while stirring to integrate.
• Topping drink. Likewise, adding to the glass first and straining over it.
• Beer syrups which last a lot longer than beer -- often up to 30 days. They can be used to create a frothy foam head and texture from the left over proteins in the beer and material in the hop extract. This emulsifier can be a lot cheaper than eggs and can be made vegan or less allergenic.
• Layering. Clearly, sorting out the density of the beer and the rest of the drink is important. Next, figure out what the end goal is and how the drinker should perceive the drink. Is the beer to be taken in first or last? Should the drinker sip from the top or drink via a straw from the bottom? The risk with the straw is that the person you serve it to will just stir it up. Is the beer the focus, the primer, or the cleanser? Think the neo-classic straw-driven Mind Eraser where the Kahlua on the bottom is taken first via straw and its sweetness then kills the heat of the middle vodka layer. Finally, the carbonated water at the top cleanses the palate.
Beer flavor wheels, such as this one, will help to get you thinking about how to pair beer with the other cocktail ingredients.
The talk was sponsored by Lambise, a pair of beers that were developed specifically for use in cocktails; both are combinations of Belgian and lambic beers and one of the two has a ginger component to it. Besides having good body and effervescence, the lambic's sourness and acidity might allow drinks to be citrus-free; while Mabry found that it was a good substitute, Martin often prefers to add citrus in to bolster the crispness of the drink.