Mixing Beer and Gin

mixing beer and ginPreviously we looked at fat-washed spirits, and it seems the sky may be the limit in terms of interesting blends of alcohol and flavors. Consider mixing beer and gin.

Beer hybrids that use grapes in the brewing process have gained a following (see Beer Wine Hybrids), so the idea of mixing beer with other spirits shouldn’t seem so far-fetched. If the idea of mixing beer and gin makes you turn up your nose, remember what your mother said: Don’t criticize until you’ve tried it. (Of course, mom was probably referring to broccoli or Brussels sprouts rather than a potent potable, but the advice still applies.)

It’s About the Barrels

Aging a spirit in a barrel (rather than stainless steel) adds to its flavor and complexity. Ransom Spirits is a well-known distiller of barrel-aged gin, located in Sheridan, Oregon. Its Old Tom Gin has won numerous awards, including the gold medal in the 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Not too far away in Portland is Upright Brewing – a craft brewer that’s using Ransom’s Old Tom Gin barrels to age some of its brews, according to The Washington Post’s Beer meets gin: In the barrel, garden or both.”

Upright’s owner, Alex Ganum, is quoted in that article: “We were just shocked at the aroma profile of these barrels.” He went on to describe Upright’s apricot ale aged in the gin barrels: “Bright, complex, just layer after layer. The spirit notes and the oak on top of it. It was kind of like a dream.”

Brewing with Juniper

While the result may be extraordinary, the problem is that the vast majority of gins are not barrel aged. Consequently, the availability of barrels for subsequent beer aging is skimpy at best.

Brewing with juniper (the main ingredient of gin) is an alternative. Samuel Adams®, Rogue Brewing, and Dogfish Head Brewing all have developed beers that incorporate juniper in the brewing process.

Sam Adams Juniper IPA is a limited release in the winter. Rogue’s Juniper Pale Ale is described as “smooth malt balance… floral aroma with a dry spicy finish from whole juniper berries.” Dogfish’s Sah’tea is described as an ancient ale that’s a modern take on a 9th-century Finnish beer. (Dogfish has a penchant for experimenting with ancient brewing recipes. See our earlier blog: Beer Wine Hybrids.)

Whether you can locate a gin-barrel-aged brew or one brewed with juniper, don’t hesitate to mix gin and beer and offer it to your patrons. And remember you mother’s advice: Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.