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Posted May 13, 2014 by ry in blog

Beer, with a Garnish

IMG_4640 We recently celebrated Cinco De Mayo and with that you see a lot of Mexican lagers with limes stuck in the top of the bottle or on the side of the glass. This may be nothing new, but it got us thinking–what is the deal with the beer garnish?

Obvious Beer Garnish is Obvious

The obvious garnish most people will see is a slice lime in a lager like Corona, Dos Equis, or Negra Modelo. Sometimes, people will squeeze the juice in and then slide the slice inside the bottle (or drop it in the cup) to really mix in the flavors. As avid beer drinkers, the question comes to mind, why would you want to do this? Some say it helps to enhance the flavor of the beer and others to make the beer palatable (insert riff on cheap beer here). It begs the question, “is the lime industry in cahoots with the Mexican beer industry to boost sales….” maybe? It certainly doesn’t explain Bud Light Lime.

The garnish does not stop with just one kind of citrus! You will see an orange slice in wheat beers and hefeweizens, like Blue Moon, Shock Top, or New Belgium’s Sunshine Wheat, among others. I have asked before, “Why the orange slice?” and they respond with “…because that is what you put in this beer.” There is also the rare occasion that I see a lemon, too. I don’t think I’ve come across breweries that recommended citrus in their beer, but quite a few gastropubs and resellers often pair it with a dish… and a hint that you should drop citrus in the craft beer. *Blasphemy!*

Lesser Known Garnishes

Hop Infused French Press

Hop Infused beer at Bull & Bush

Now, we have pointed the obvious garnish that most would know about so we can talk about the lesser known garnishes out there.

In our opinion, the most wonderful garnish many would not think of …HOPS… yes, Virginia, hops. The green luscious bud that gives beer its bite and floral notes. Some breweries like Dogfish Head have even gone as far as creating infusers like the “Randall” that forces the draft beer to flow through fresh hops giving it a whole new flavor. Bull & Bush in Denver, Colorado does something similar, offering a few varieties of hops to choose from to infuse with their beer. Alas, there are no photos, but the idea is to let the beer sit and seep, wait about five minutes, then slowly (*SLOWLY*) push the plunger down.

Don’t give it to your young nephew who slams that sucker down (unless you like wearing foam, that is).

Perhaps this is not a garnish by definition, so much as it is a flavor addition to the beer. We have used hops as a garnish, with the idea being the same: toss in a few hop buds to your favorite beer and see what you get! Wolf’s Ridge Brewing does something similar by going beyond the garnish and mixing their beers – like their version of the beermosa (WRB Harvest Wheat, lillet, and fresh squeezed orange) or their Stout & Espresso (Canis Lycaon, One Line espresso).

The Garnishes

In digging around, I stumbled on this article that had some great pairings suggested:

  • Hoegaarden Original White Ale; garnish with slice of lemon hanging off the rim to accentuate the sweet, citrus flavor and offset the spicy clove.
  • Starr Hill Dark Starr Stout; rim glass with cocoa powder, or just pair with a small bar of dark chocolate.
  • Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Ale; drop a couple of green olives into this IPA, and watch the bubbles gather around them, allowing them to float back to the top. (edit: I *Want* to try this despite not diggin on Olives. -Keith)
  • 5 Rabbit 5 Lizard; lemon goes well with this latin-style witbier, and salt or hot sauce can also be a good choice of garnish.
  • Uinta Punk’n Harvest Pumpkin Ale; powder the rim of the glass with a cinnamon and sugar mix to add a little kick to this already delicious pumpkin ale.
  • Shock Top Raspberry Wheat; plopping a couple of raspberries into this popular Belgian-style wheat ale slightly strengthens the berry’s flavor… and you get a little treat in the bottom of your glass.

Some of my friends have done some of their own, including:

  • Southern Tier Pumking; like above, cinnamon and sugar on most pumpkin beers work out really well.
  • You can’t have any mexican beer (*cough*Corona, Negra Modelo, Dos Equis*cough*) without someone asking for a lime.
  • Same goes for most wheats and hefeweizens. Usually, only the domestics (Blue Moon) get hit up for oranges. I’m not sure if that’s “tradition”, marketing, or other beers just taste better.
  • Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale; bare with me! This is one that a lot of people hate on. My friend made a modified bloody mary rim (made with sriracha) that kicked this off in a spectacular fashion.

What kind of garnishes do you use?