Given the popularity of barrel-aged beers that reflect the character of spirits originally aged in barrels, the progression to fermented beverages that taste like cocktails or other beverages seems natural.
Following are three California-brewed beverages that draw inspiration from the respective flavors of three refreshing summer favorites: gin and tonic, Moscow mule and horchata.
Gin and tonic
Anderson Valley Brewing Co. in Boonville created G&T Gose as a homage to the classic summertime gin and tonic cocktail. The beer pours pale yellow and slightly cloudy, with a persistent fizzy white head. The predominant aroma is lightly tart with touches of orange and lemon, as well as suggestions of fresh herbs and pine.
While refreshing, the aroma is much closer to a classic gose than to the cocktail that inspired it. On the palate, however, the presence of lime is unmistakable, and the underlying zesty herbal notes, minerality and very gentle sweetness, combined with effervescent carbonation, really do suggest the experience of a gin and tonic. The juniper addition doesn’t come through too strongly but definitely contributes to the overall flavor, and refreshing lemongrass notes come out in the dry, pleasant finish.
At 4.2 percent alcohol by volume, this brew is very well suited for a hot summer day – it’s a bit fuller bodied than a cocktail, but you could easily enjoy more than one.
Wild Mule, a cider inspired by Moscow mule cocktails, is made by Aurum Cider Co., producer of Wildcide Hard Cider and sister company to Gordon Biersch Brewing Co. in San Jose. Wild Mule pours a cloudy straw color from the healthy layer of yeast sediment at the bottom of the bottle, a product of both the natural carbonation and the unfiltered process designed to preserve the intensity of the flavors.
The aroma is bright and intense, with a citrusy tang and spicy, zesty undertones from the prominent ginger addition. Prickly ginger spice is felt on the tongue and the roof of the mouth at the same time the fresh ginger flavor asserts itself. The punch of spice fades slowly into a gentle burn that lingers on the tongue. As the cider warms, the zesty lime juice becomes more distinct, but the ginger is still present.
Wild Mule is lightly carbonated but still highly refreshing from the potent zip of the ginger. The underlying Wildcide cider provides a pleasant balance of ripe apple flavor, bright acidity and moderate residual sweetness. While the potent ginger and lime overpower the subtleties of the cider, the blend is quite refreshing. The natural food pairing would be sushi, or a mild Indian curry that would complement the ginger bite.
The Placentia-based Bruery brews Or Xata, a beer inspired by the Latin American drink horchata. The color is a rich orange-gold, with a dense white head. The aroma is a potent blend of cinnamon and vanilla that definitely suggests the milky drink.
Also brewed with rice in a nod to the traditional Mexican preparation of horchata, as well as lactose to reflect recipes that include milk, the beer is light and sweet on the palate. The vanilla and cinnamon character carry all the way through from the initial sip to the long, smooth finish. While the traditional malt and hop flavors associated with beer are difficult to detect, the underlying blonde ale provides a pleasant base for the horchata flavors.
Derek Wolfgram is a Certified Beer Judge through the Beer Judge Certification Program and an officer of the Silicon Valley Sudzers homebrew club. For more information, visit sudzers.org.