As I was growing up, the Boilermaker was a fabled drink. Described as “The strongest drink in the world”, this was a feared cocktail. Every member of my generation can tell you were they were when they first saw that shot glass sink into a sea of beer. The clink of the shot glass hitting the bottom of a beer mug functions as a starter’s pistol alerting you to guzzle it’s contents.
Typically, the recipe for a boilermaker would be a standard American lager and a shot of whiskey. Going back to my blue collar roots, the whiskey involved would typically be 4 Roses, J&B or Fleischmann’s. This concoction was not something you would drink for pleasure. This would be a test of your machismo… a rite of passage.
The liquor would not be mixed with the beer like a shandy or some other fruity beer cocktail. A true boilermaker is a shot of booze dropped in a glass of beer, shot glass and all. The street corner version has a nip of whiskey upended in a quart of beer.
Upon hearing about this column some people kept mentioning the Irish Car Bomb. Sorry, that is not a boilermaker, it is a cocktail. Bailey’s and Jameson’s dropped in a beer. One last time… a Boilermaker is one shot dropped in one beer, glass and all, no variations.
I no longer pour nips of J&B into quarts of beer in my parent’s basement or street corner to impress my buddies. Still, for some reason, I find myself wanting to revisit the boilermaker. My tastes in beer and liquor have changed and I feel the boilermaker should evolve with my tastes. Keeping with tradition, all of these recipes are a shot of booze dropped in a glass of beer, shot glass and all. This is my vision of the evolution of the classic. THIS is the rebirth of the boilermaker:
1.) Sam Adams Cherry Wheat & Three Olives Vodka Cherry Vodka – The color pretty much stays the same after the glass drop. The Three Olives Cherry Vodka is clear in color. The color is a deep gold with a thin white head. The aroma is of cherries… big time. Cherries and alcohol. The palate has cherry flavors all the way through with a dry wheat finish. At the very end there is a nice hop bitterness. The perfect summer boilermaker? I just might think so.
2.) Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (Vin. 2004) & Smirnoff Vanilla – I thought starting with a vintage BBCS would be the way to go. The chocolate malt gets so much more pronounced as this beer matures. Why not add a bit of vanilla and a touch of alcohol to this classic. There is no color change to this opaque stout. The aroma is a different story. There are huge vanilla aromas and a huge presence of alcohol. The vanilla doesn’t over power the chocolate tones, the malt fights right through the vodka. This boilermaker tastes like a chocolate martini. A very good chocolate martini!
3.) Unibroue Ephemere Apple & Goldschlager Cinnamon Liqueur – This boilermaker is a cloudy, deep yellow color with a thin white head. The head has specks of gold floating in it. The aroma is of granny smith green apples. There is a big cinnamon aroma also; like I have a big glass of Quaker Oats cinnamon oatmeal in my hand. The Goldschlager plays off of the Unibroue Ephemere very well. The spiciness of the cinnamon in the Goldschlager plays of the Belgium like yeast in the Ephemere nicely.
4.) Great Divide Claymore Scotch Ale & Laphroaig 30 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky – This is one of the better combos. The color had no real change to talk about. The aroma is very peaty and smoky. The finish has a malty finish that is washed away by the peat of the whiskey. This is what I imaging an Imperial Scotch Ale must taste like. Very enjoyable I think this could make its way into rotation as a regular fireside sipper. I could see myself with this concoction on a cool fall evening out on the back deck.
5.) Bud Light & Jefferson Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon – The color shifted from straw to a light gold as the shot was dropped in the beer. There is a huge whiskey aroma with beautiful oak tones. Obviously, using a better whiskey and a premium beer make all the difference with the classic boilermaker. The initial flavor is all about Bourbon and that flavor hangs all through the finish. Bud Light’s malt sweetness starts to appear on the palate after what seemed like about 10 seconds. This is a great upgrade to the classic.
6.) Julius Echter Hefe Weiss & Bacardi Limon Rum – No color change we are still looking at a cloudy straw colored beer. It is difficult to read the logo on the shot glass though the beer. As expected there is a huge lemon aroma, a big rind presence. The wheat is also noticed quickly in the aroma. The flavor is very different. Big lemon flavors in the beginning of the palate and a lot of rind in the finish. The tropical rum flavors play off of the citrus tones in the Hefe Weiss very well. This is a great summer boilermaker.
7.) Chimay Cinq Cents Tripel Ale & Midori Melon – The color immediately darkens and gets a greenish copper hue with a thin fluffy white head. The aroma is of yeast, fresh fruit and alcohol. The beer has the initial flavors and tones you would find in a triple. The melon doesn’t really kick in until the finish and does so very nicely. The sweetness of the Midori is balanced perfectly by the dryness of the Triple. I would suggest this Boilermaker ice cold on a hotter than hell day.
8.) Dogfish 90 Minute IPA & Dogfish Head Blue Hen Vodka – There is a great deep rich golden color to the beer with a quickly disappearing white head. The aroma is still of hops but now there is a huge alcohol presence. The malt is still there also. Is this a poor boy’s 120 Minute IPA? The first sip tells me no. This is a Boilermaker, and a damn good one at that. Out of all the Boilermakers on this list, this is the hoppiest thus far.
9.) Guinness Extra Stout & Kahlua Coffee Liquor – The shot glass hit bottom and the head instantly started to rise. Obviously there is no change in color. There is a ton off coffee in the aroma playing off of the roasted malt. OK, this is good. It is a coffee Imperial Stout. This has a nice initial dry palate and finishes slightly sweet. As you drink the beer, the coffee flavors rise to the top and get more pronounced. The dry stout and the sweet Kahlua play off of each other very nicely
10.) Corona Exrta & 1800 Tequila – I imagine this is the South of the border version of The Boilermaker. Though I have never been to Mexico, I am sure a shot of Tequila has been dropped in beers for centuries. The straw color remains the same. The aroma is a different story. It is screaming Tequila… all aroma of the Corona is gone. This Boilermaker has taken on all of the characteristics of the 1800.
There is my ten. I must admit, I had a lot of fun doing this column. I could probably come up with another 10 combos. I hope this inspires you to come up with your own since I realize all of you may not have access to all of the beers and spirits listed here. Feel free to post your suggestions in the comment section below.
Get creative if you can’t find Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (Vin. 2004). Try another Imperial Stout or Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. If Laphroaig 30 Year Old Single isn’t available I am sure there are a lot of single malts that will do the trick.
The key is having fun with it. Be safe with it, and don’t attempt to do all ten in one sitting.