If one drink is good, then two drinks has to be better, right? Especially if they’re served at the same time. Side by side. Meant to accompany each other, like two best friends on an empowering road trip. Thelma and Louis style. That’s the beauty of a boilermaker, which is literally just a shot of whiskey served next to a cold beer. You can sip the whiskey a little at a time and chase it with the beer a little at a time, or you can shoot the whole damn tiny glass and pound the beer. You’ll even find some people dropping their shot of whiskey into their beer. It all depends on your mood and/or amount of free time you have before your partner texts you asking if you’ll be home in time to put the kids to bed.
The boilermaker holds a special place in my heart because it’s straddles the Light Side/Dark Side paradox. It is both a great idea and a terrible idea at the same time. It’s great because I love whiskey and I love beer and terrible because the bartender serves me whiskey and beer at the same time and I’m a bit like a goldfish who consumes everything that’s put in front of him even at his own detriment.
For better or worse, the boilermaker is always the beginning of an interesting evening. Like, singing Alanis Morissette at karaoke, interesting. Like, ping pong battle in the middle of a drag queen show, interesting. Often, the boilermaker becomes a marker of time, recalled the following day like a landmark to try to navigate the previous evening’s festivities. “I’m not sure how I ended up at the petting zoo. The last thing I remember was drinking a Kentucky Derby (that’s a shot of Maker’s and a glass of West Sixth Amber Ale).”
Drinking two drinks at the same time is not something amateurs should do. It’s completely unnecessary to consume that much alcohol at once and is not the recommended way to enjoy either drink if you’re interested in the craftsmanship of said drinks. That said, here are five of my favorite boilermaker combos. Enjoy at your own risk. Tell the goats at the petting zoo I said hello.
Mellow Corn Whiskey and Natty Boh
Mellow Corn, produced by Heaven Hill, is cheap. Like, well-whiskey get it for under $18 cheap. But it’s actually pretty good, comes in at a steep 100 proof and is bottled in bond. So bartenders love it and ordering it gives the drinker a bit of hipster cache. Follow that up with a Natty Boh, one of the current cheap lagers of choice, and you’ve got a hipster sandwich.
The Shohei Ohtani
Suntory Hibiki 21 and Hitachio Nest Red Rice Ale
Shohei Ohtani is the 23-year-old baseball phenom from Japan who’s playing his rookie year for the Angels right now. He’s an ace pitcher and a power hitter, something professional baseball hasn’t really seen since Babe Ruth’s first seasons. He’s a double threat, just like the boilermaker. Celebrate Ohtani’s rare talent with an equally rare Japanese whisky (the Hibiki 21 is incredibly well-regarded and incredibly hard to find) and beer. Good luck finding a craft beer from Japan out in the wild. It’s possible, but you’ll have to do some hunting. You could always order a Sapporo in a pinch, or you could use the internet what it was intended for and buy Japanese craft beers through the Umami Mart.
The Corporate Ladder
Jim Beam and Budweiser
I have no beef with Jim Beam whatsoever, but the fact that they’re the biggest producer of bourbon in the United States makes them the perfect pairing with a Bud. Have fun climbing the corporate ladder.
Just Plain Offensive
Sugar Tit Moonshine and Flying Dog Pearl Necklace
I’ve never had this whiskey and I honestly couldn’t believe it’s a thing. Where are the protests? The outrage? But it’s real and if you’re looking to order something that’s just plain offensive, you might as well pair Sugar Tit moonshine with Flying Dog’s Pearl Necklace. You should probably be smoking a cigar, too. I don’t know why, but it seems like the person who orders this combo probably enjoys cigars in public.
The Muscle Shoals
Clyde May’s Alabama-Style Whiskey and Good People Brewing Snake Handler IPA
This isn’t your typical bourbon—it’s a sourced whiskey that’s infused with dried green apple, which apparently was a popular thing to do with moonshine back in the day. Clyde May was founded in Alabama, but has been headquartered in New York for the last several years. They’re in the process of building a distillery in Troy, Alabama, though, so we’ll give them a pass. Pair this flavored whiskey with a double IPA from one of Alabama’s best craft breweries and you’ve got a duo with a thick southern accent.