Beer Cocktails: The Final Frontier

Photographer: Steve Kale

Across the country, bartenders are upping the ante on their craft. What’s resulted is an imaginative approach to mixology featuring an unlikely pairing of ingredients.



The Art of the Beer Cocktail

There are a few old adages (usually involving rhyming couplets) that warn of the dangers of mixing beer and liquor. But today, we’re happy to report that those adages are completely wrong. Or at least short-sighted. In fact, blending your booze may be the best drinking advice you’ll hear this summer.

Let us introduce you to the art of the beer cocktail – also known as the “hoptail”– which enhances the refreshing effervescence of beer by combining it with liquor, mixers and other cleverly selected ingredients.

Hoptails have been around in one form or another since as early as the 19th century. Charles Dickens sipped Shandys (beer and lemonade) in old London taverns, and the Beastie Boys kept it real in the ’80s on the corners of Brooklyn by downing Brass Monkeys (that funky monkey “prepared” by chugging a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor down to the label and filling it back up to the top with OJ).

But more recently, hoptails have received a jolt of sophistication in metropolitan areas. Bartenders are now using a variety of beers to craft highly elevated concoctions – something more likely to be ordered by Mario Batali than Mike D.

With the local concentration of craft breweries and the emergence of craft cocktail bars, the trend is set to pop here in Central PA. With that, we’d like to welcome you to the world of hoptails, the mixologists and establishments that are at the forefront of the movement and even a couple of recipes using local craft beers to make at home or order at the bar this summer. Now, cue the funky “Brass Monkey” horn riff…


BeerCocktails0714-2Mixing It Up with Chris Chamberlain and Steve Wood

Chris Chamberlain and Steve Wood are award-winning mixologists based in the Lancaster area who are shaking things up in the local cocktail scene.

Chamberlain is the winner of the national 2013 Iron Mixologist competition and designs craft cocktail menus for bars and restaurants across Central PA. Wood is developing a beer cocktail menu at Lancaster’s Hunger-N-Thirst restaurant and his “Seven Hundred Seventy-Five” gin and Belgian gueuze-based hoptail placed in the top five at the 2013 GQ magazine and Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender event in Philadelphia. Here’s how they stack up on hoptails.

On the local craft cocktail scene

CC: We’ve been trying to build up a craft cocktail and hoptail scene around Central PA, and it’s slowly catching on. There are three or four guys, like Steve, who are on the cutting edge.

SW: It’s not being done too much here. Even I was skeptical at first, but then I experienced some great beer cocktails in D.C. and Richmond, VA. Everyone is diving into it down there, and it really works. Beer is like the last frontier.

On the 50-50 split

CC: A lot of people make cocktails with a beer floater, but a true hoptail should be a beer-oriented cocktail. You need it to be beer-pronounced, with the secondary ingredients being enhancements.

SW: Chris and I look at this a little differently – which is a good thing. I think having the beer and the spirits in closer proportion creates a more unique experience. It’s about elevating the spirits and the beer together.

On their summer cocktail of choice

CC: I replace the orange slice in a Blue Moon with a shot of Cointreau.

SW: I like to get whatever fresh local fruit is available and infuse it into lemonade and add one-and-a-half ounces of vodka and top it off with a Hefeweizen.


Click here to view hoptail recipes from Chamberlain and Wood, as well as simple beer cocktails you can order next time you’re out at the bar.


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.


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Posted in Articles, Craft Corner, Harrisburg, Harrisburg Headlines, Headlines, Lancaster, Lancaster Headlines, Out & About, Out & About – Harrisburg, Out & About – Lancaster, Out & About – York, The Mix, York, York Headlines

Mike Andrelczyk is a features editor for Fly Magazine. He is a graduate of Penn State University and currently lives with his wife Stacey in Strasburg. Interests include tennis, playing bad guitar, poetry (poems have appeared in Modern Haiku, The Inquisitive Eater and other journals) and oneirology – the study of dreams – mostly in the form of afternoon naps. His name appears in the title screen of Major League 2.

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