Meet Steve Wood, craft beverage and event manager at Lancaster’s Hunger-N-Thirst restaurant. A regular on the competitive cocktail circuit, Wood employs the mentality of a chef as he creates custom cocktails with some not-so-regular ingredients. We picked Wood’s brain in our reporting on the beer cocktail trend, and even convinced him to divulge some of his signature hoptail recipes.
Here, the craft cocktail enthusiast tells us a little more about the growing beer cocktail trend, garnished with a dash of his philosophy from behind the bar.
Fly Magazine: The cocktail you entered in the 2013 GQ and Bombay Sapphire’s Most Inspired Bartender Competition was a beer cocktail.
Steve Wood: It was a play on a French 75, which is basically gin, lemon juice, sugar and champagne. I elevated it with Bombay Sapphire, a strawberry arugula gastrique because I wanted some earthy flavors and topped it off with Lindemans Cuvée Rene – a sour Belgian gueuze.
FM: What’s the plan for the beer cocktail menu at Hunger-N-Thirst?
SW: I’ll be creating beer cocktails that highlight the unique flavors found in beers – the hoppiness, tartness, spiciness or funkiness. The owners at Hunger-N-Thirst source amazing beers, and if you’ve got a lot of good beer, you’d better be using it to make some amazing cocktails.
FM: You’re like a chef behind the bar.
SW: Culinary concepts really work. That’s the way I’ve been looking at cocktails in general for the past five years. With cocktails, it’s the path of using everything you have. If you’re at a great beer bar and you have access to beers with lots of flavor, why not use them?
FM: Is this a trend that any bartender can grasp?
SW: Absolutely. Let’s say you’re making a Negroni, which is a bittersweet cocktail. All you’d have to do to incorporate that beer flavor is top your Negroni with an IPA. Or a Dark and Stormy topped off with an imperial stout. There are so many variations.
FM: It’s like the best of both worlds. There’s something for everyone.
SW: Beer is more refreshing than most cocktails, but really hoppy beers overwhelm some people. With hoptails, you get a little hoppiness, but it’s tempered by the sweetness or the bitterness of the spirit. I like pulling people out of their comfort zone and introducing them to a new world.
What’s your take on hoptails?
Tell us in the comments below about your favorite combinations, or send us a photo of your creations on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the #flyhoptails hashtag.