I rarely drink liquor, much less at a Gaslamp bar on a Friday night. Yet somehow, after paying $10 for parking and glaring bitchily at everyone I passed, I found myself sitting at the bar of Quad Ale House (868 Fifth Ave., 3rd floor), awaiting what very well may be the next "it" crossover in the drinking world—beer "inspired" cocktails.
There are plenty of clever beer cocktail creations to be found around town—although unfortunately no longer my beer column predecessor's namesake drink, The Nutty Cheesman, at the now-defunct Alchemy—but this was my first time hearing of mixed drinks inspired by beer styles that didn't contain a drop of the stuff.
"Since you can get craft beer anywhere, we wanted to create something that people already know and love in a completely different way," says Quad event coordinator and bartender Jessica Hicks. There are currently five of her concoctions on the menu and more are to come, including rotating specials to give each of the bartenders an opportunity to hone their own creations.
However, don't expect replicas of your favorite beer styles. The key words to Quad's approach are "inspired by."
"The first one I made was based off of a sweet lager like Yuengling, but it actually ended up tasting so much like an actual lager that there was no point in serving it," Hicks says. "People could just order a lager if that's exactly what they wanted."
Of the five beer styles-turned-spirits, I loved to the Summer Saison made with Bulleit Rye, clove, lactose, Dolin blanc dry, pineapple gum syrup and lemon. Considering it's already my favorite style of beer, I was undoubtedly biased going into it, but its extremely smooth balance of flavors and delightful citrus bite made it a dead ringer for a refreshing, medium-bodied saison.
Next up was the Meyer Gose, a traditionally mild sour style brewed with salt for a unique zest. Initially it came across as overly similar to a margarita, but as it diluted down, the salt was able to assert itself a bit more to rightfully mimic this spunky German style.
Third place belonged to the Grapefruit IPA. Craft beer cred came from Mikkeller's dry hop Citra vodka, and the balance of passion fruit and celery salt make it an easy jump from liquor to ale.
Finally, the Kriek Lambic and Herbal Amber constructions left bad tastes in my mouth, literally and figuratively. But take my personal prejudice with a grain of salt. I personally despise Fernet (a key component of the Kriek) and egg white cocktails (a hefty portion of the Amber), but even I'll admit that the Amber's creamy body could easily be mistaken for a bitter draft on nitro.
Beer and liquor drinkers alike: If you find yourself on Fifth Avenue, stop by Quad and try these homages to brewing ingenuity. And if you still find that beer pleases your palate more that what it's inspired, Quad still has 28 craft beers on tap for you to choose from.