Cocktails come in many variations these days and one trend that has picked up some steam is beer cocktails. Opinions are split on this without a doubt. Only last week, Sean Kenyon, bartender at Williams & Graham and the Squeaky Bean expressed his dislike of the trend. "I don't believe in them. I believe beer and spirits are things that should remain separate unless you're drinking a shot and a beer. I have never had a beer cocktail that really wowed me," Kenyon said. Like them of not, they are here. On menus from TAG Burger Bar all the way to Aspen's Justice Snow's beer cocktails begin to emerge.
Eater asked Ryan Conklin, bar manager at Euclid Hall and beer aficionado, about the trend and how it plays into the both Euclid Hall's strong beer program and also the rest of the cocktail menu at the popular LoDo eatery.
People feel strongly about beer cocktails at times - what is your view on them? There are certainly some amazing drinks made with beer as an ingredient and I personally enjoy them, but I would not say that beer cocktails are the next great thing. I am neither an advocate nor an opponent, but I really enjoy beverages with a bit of extra body and texture and beer can add both, while also contributing to the complexity of the flavor.
What are the beers you like to use in cocktails and why? Beers with pronounced flavors are best for cocktails, but more specifically, I really enjoy working with Farmhouse Ales, Stouts, and Sours. Farmhouse ales are great because they offer the complex herbal and possibly fruity aromas and lively carbonation. Stouts offer a rich canvas with a creamy texture to build on with so many options from fruit to coffee or chocolate, bitter or sweet. Sours are great to work with for cocktails because there is very often an element of acid in a drink, but not great because they are rather pricey and usually aren't readily available at most bars. Beers that don't work very well are light - amber malt focused beers.
Euclid Hall has beer cocktails on its menu - what are they? Right now there are three beer cocktails , the product of a team collaboration. Jessica Cann offered up one beer cocktail based with Avery IPA and Leopold Bros. Apple Whiskey, and another with Milk Stout, chocolate vodka, coffee and mint. The third is a beer cocktail I created called a Kansas City Cup which displays beer more as an ingredient than as the base of the cocktail. The KC Cup is a blend of Pimms, gin, lemon juice, lavender simple and Boulevard Tank 7.
How does Euclid Hall's strong beer program play into beer cocktails? Having great and varied craft beer on tap plays a huge role in experimenting with beer cocktails, but it is also great to have a wide selection of liqueurs, bitters, and spirits as well as fresh juices and herbs. It was only a matter of time, given the great spirit selection, fresh ingredients and a varied craft beer selection that we would offer beer cocktails. They appeared on the menu about nine months after opening, but I was experimenting almost immediately.
How do the beer cocktails work in the rest of the cocktail menu at Euclid Hall? Euclid Hall is focused on beer but we love our cocktails. Beer cocktails are a fairly new concept but serve as a cool bridge between cocktails and beer. They offer people a chance to experience both cocktails and beer in new ways. Although Euclid Hall is known for beer cocktails, they only make up roughly a quarter of the cocktail menu. Jessica Cann has been a real driving force behind our cocktail program and our team is proud to debute our winter drink list which highlights flavors of scotch and horchata, mezcal and earthy beets, and more angostura than expected as well as some of our classics.
What are your go-to beer hangouts and where do you like to get cocktails? My favorite beer hangouts would have to be downtown Denver. There are at least 12 great places to drink beer and all within walking distance like Blake Street Vault, StarBar, Falling Rock, Colt and Gray, Denver Beer Company, Lucky Pie, Great Divide, Fresh Craft, and more. For cocktails, easily Colt and Gray as well as Green Russell and Williams and Graham.
Ryan Conklin, bar manager at Euclid Hall [Photo: Courtesy of Ryan Conklin]