These are fabulous moments that you feel splendid about Beer and Whisky accompanying each other. But there's more to this famous relationship.
- Aging process
- Alcohol Content
1. It all starts with the same ingredients
Yes you heard it right. Both drinks include all three of the same ingredients; water, barley, and yeast. Of course, other grains are used from time to time. Hops, another ingredient for Beer, adds bitterness and aroma.
In the first couple of days, during both Whisky and Beer production, identical things happen. First barley is wetted, laid for germination, kilned, and then ground at the mills. Later, the ground malt, which is now called ‘grist’, mixes with hot water in mash tuns. It releases sugar and becomes what we call ‘wort’.
After this step in Whisky production, yeast is added to wort for fermentation, while in Beer production, hops are added first, and then the yeast.
2. Making Whisky with Beer is ‘possible’
In Whisky production, after fermentation - which is simply creating alcohol using yeast and sugar - distillation takes place, evaporating alcohol from the liquid in the still and condensing it. Since Whisky and Beer are almost identical until the end of the fermentation phase, it is very possible to produce Whisky from Beer.
Actually, a Californian craft distillery called Seven Stills has already done it (and Flaviaristas loved it). Imagine a chocolate oatmeal stout with peat-smoked barley!! Your palate is probably wet with desire already.
3. Whisky & Beer make one of the simplest (but most impactful) cocktails
Have you heard about the Boilermaker Cocktail? There are a few ways to make it.
But they all start with the first step: pour a glass of Beer and a shot of Whisky. Then:
- Drop the Whisky in the Beer glass, let it fuzz for a second and finish it without letting your lip leave the glass. This is also known as a “depth charge.”
- Mix the Whisky into the Beer and stir. Drink slowly.
4. Whisky and Beer share beds
Unlike any simple ale or lager, Whisky has to be matured in oak casks for years. Numerous breweries have also started to put their Beer to sleep in Whisky barrels. For example; Ola Dubh uses Highland Park woods, and the Belgian brewery De Dochter van de Korenaar, uses casks from Ardbeg Distillery to create peat notes in its Beer.
Likewise, giant firms like Pernod Ricard and William Grant & Sons, created Whiskies that are finished in ale casks. Glenfiddich just released Glenfiddich IPA Experimental Single Malt, which is a Whisky finished in IPA Beer casks. And of course, there's Jameson, that created ‘Caskmates’ which has been finished in stout-seasoned Whiskey casks. The Stout Edition is amber, rounder, and sweet, while the IPA Edition looks more like the classic Jameson, with herbaceous aromas, and stronger citrus notes on the palate.
The blended Scotch Whisky brand Grant’s also introduced the Cask Edition Series, which started with the No.1 ale Cask Finish. This Whisky has been matured for four months in Edinburgh ale seasoned casks.
5. Some Beers taste like Whisky
Even though the malt used by breweries in Scotland is not dried by peat, the Scotch Whisky distilleries use low nitrogen barley, dried by peat burning. The distinctive flavor of these smoked malts, when used in Beers, is reminiscent of Whisky.
Such Beers are popular in France, Belgium, and America and are often named Whiskey Ale or Scotch Ale by the brewers.
6. Which one’s healthier?
Compared to its brewski pal, Whisky can be considered healthier for you - at least when it comes to calories. Whisky also reduces appetite, which makes it the tastiest guard from overeating. Plus, if you’re avoiding carbs, you can still have a sip. Just don’t mix it with Coke or anything.
7. Which one’s stronger?
Things are pretty interesting when it comes to ABV. Beer contains between 5 and 7% alcohol by volume, which means you consume 0.6 oz of alcohol with each 12 oz can.
A shot of Whisky is 1.5 oz, and if your dram of choice is Flaviar’s Corn Trooper, which is 50.5% ABV, your body receives 0.75 oz of alcohol. In other words, it’s all about the math and servings. A can of Beer and a shot of Whisky have roughly the same amount of alcohol. Who knew!
Beer and Whisk(e)y Are Soulmates - Meet 5 Perfect Pairings
1. Punk IPA with Son of a Peat
The Punk IPA is produced by Scotland’s most famed craft brewery, BrewDog. It was the Beer that shot the company to success and is still their best-selling Brew by far. The lovely West-coast hops used bring about a barrage of citrus notes, while the New Zealand Nelson Sauvin variety brings some tropical fruit notes to the palate, including mango and pineapple.
The Beer also shows hints of sweet malt, herbs, and grass which are complemented greatly by the peat-forward, earthy character of Flaviar’s Son of A Peat. The fruits from the Beer work well with the second wave of flavours from the Whisky, which come along in the form of apricots, green apples, and buttery biscuits. Both intense and powerful, yet in perfect harmony, this is a Scottish pairing like no other. If you run out of Punk IPA, Son of a Peat matches perfectly with Sierra Beer, as well.
2. Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier with Nikka Coffey Grain
The Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier has come to define the Hefeweizen Beer style, also known as wheat Beer, as the grain bill replaces much of the malted barley with wheat. The yeast strains used are also unique, often delivering refreshing notes of banana and glove. This Hefeweissbier features the known banana notes, along with a heavy influence of spice. A touch of citrus joins the palate as a playful spicy, finish ensues.
A dram of the Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky, by Japan’s second-largest Whisky producer Yoichi, adds new layers of tropical fruit, summer spice, and coconut to the mix. After a sip of each, a whole symphony of tropical fruits, warm spice, and subtle sweetness create a truly unique pairing experience.
3. Alesmith Wee Heavy with Booker’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon
By San Diego’s amazing Alesmith brewery, the Wee Heavy is a rich, malty Scotch Ale coming in at 10% ABV. Notes of toffee-covered walnuts, smoke, and dark fruit make this the perfect Beer to be paired with Bourbon, in this case, Booker’s. The Bourbon, which usually comes in at around 60% ABV, is powerful enough to shine through, and add notes of rich vanilla, burnt oak, and smoke to the presence of the Alesmith Brew.
Sweetness will build-up, making this pairing perfect for lovers of Bourbon, and other sweet, dark beverages. After sipping on both, enjoy the long, gorgeous finish as the aforementioned notes mix and blend together.
4. Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro with Laphroaig Quarter Cask
Moving on to a darker Beer category, we’ll be looking at the Milk Stout Nitro by Left Hand Brewing. Left Hand has been a pioneer in the US when it comes to Nitro Beers, which have a much creamier, smoother mouthfeel which comes from the addition of Nitrogen in the Beer. The sweet Milk Stout comes in at 6% ABV and showcases a rich, smooth, mouth-coating character with notes of chocolate, roasted coffee, and milk.
To balance out the sweet thickness of the stout, we bring in the peated, earthy Laphroaig Quarter Cask. One of the most popular distilleries on the isle of Islay in Scotland, the Laphroaig’s character is known to deliver abundant smoke, oak, and earth a top a light, floral backbone. Unlike other heavier Isaly expressions, the lightness of the Laphroaig works well with the Stout and refreshes the palate after each sip.
5. Threes Vliet Pilsner with Hakushu 12-Year-Old
The Vliet Pilsner by Threes Brewing is an amazing example of the style, which is one of the most straightforward types of Beer out there. However, the simplicity of the Pilsner style is what makes it so hard to get right. Vliet comes in with the well-known initial crisp, refreshing impact of a Pilsner before opening up on the palate with notes of freshly cut grass, honey, and cereal. It’s fresh, light, subtly sweet, and perfect to drink on a hot summer’s day.
A sip of Suntory’s amazing Hakushu 12 YO keeps the experience moving forward, as the Whisky’s green, floral notes carry the Beer’s notes further along and enhance the finish. The Hakushu brings in green apples, pears, some mint, and campfire smoke. Both refreshing, both crisp, summery, and crisp. A pairing made in heaven.
Before the experimentation begins, keep a few things in mind. Firstly, extremely hoppy or highly ABV Beers can be quite overpowering so you want to pair these with equally intense Whiskies. A 15% ABV Imperial Stout, for example, will completely take over a soft, fruit, and smooth Whisky. As a rule of thumb match intensity with intensity, be it of similar notes, or completely opposite ones.
More American Whiskey pairings
If you are into American Whiskeys and need more suggestions - here are three delicious combinations you can't go wrong with:
Now off you go and explore. Comment with questions and let us know of any amazing pairings you discover on the way. Cheers!