Before the Fireball fad or the bourbon boom, many people became acquainted with whiskey via the age-old tradition that is beer-and-a-shot, aka the boilermaker, staple of Irish pubs and dive bars everywhere.
If any real thought went into making it a properly thought-out pairing, it usually hovered on the beer (thanks, craft-brewing movement).
As for the shot: there were always plenty of choices for whiskey, but it was only recently that people started paying attention to them. Now that interest in whiskey has come halways to meet your favorite microbrew in the middle, we can move the beer-and-a-shot tradition to something more ... elevated.
Below, three combinations that taste better than a well-whiskey-and-PBR special at the Legion hall but still pack enough punch to put some hair on your chest.
Jameson Caskmates and Franciscan Well Jameson Stout
This duet began when Jameson made a friendly offer of a dozen used barrels to fellow Cork County booze-makers Franciscan Well. They used those barrels to age some of their stout and sent them back to Jameson, who in turn used them to finish a batch of Jameson whiskey. That batch became the first Caskmates release.
The Jameson barrel aging gives the stout a hint of vanilla and a tinge of warmth, bringing the flavor from cocoa to milk chocolate. Yet it’s what the stout finish did for the Jameson that makes this such a special pairing, with the whiskey taking on a rich, dark and creamy character. They’re a perfect pair.
Town Branch Bourbon and Kentucky Ale
Beer and whiskey go together just as well in solid form as they do in liquid, as seen in the hybrid “brewstillery.” Agricultural conglomerate Alltech put its brewery and distillery side-by-side at the Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company, makers of Town Branch Bourbon and Kentucky Ale.
Although the brewery makes an ale and a stout aged in bourbon barrels, it’s their Kentucky Ale that pairs best with the house bourbon. Town Branch is a lighter whiskey, whereas the two barrel-aged beers are hefty and already very bourbonized, so they tend to dominate in a pairing. The standard Kentucky Ale, however, is a crisp, slightly sweet ale that complements Town Branch’s light body.
Ranger Creek .44 Texas Rye and Red Headed Stranger IPA
Some hoppy bitterness is just the thing to match the spicy character of a good rye whiskey, which makes this pairing from San Antonio brewstillery Ranger Creek a solid one. The .44 Rye is made from a 100% rye mash bill, so it’s well-seasoned with caramel, cinnamon, cloves and toffee flavors. Red Headed Stranger is an IPA with a hoppy kick potent enough to stand up to Texas barbecue, so it can also match the flavors coming out of a bold whiskey like the .44 Rye.