There are cocktails and beers we call winter warmers, the kinds of drinks we associate with warm nights by the fire with snow blowing outside. Steaming Irish coffees and hot toddies ward off hypothermia and sobriety at the same time, while beers like Great Divide's Hibernation Ale and Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome warm from the inside out with plenty of hops and a high alcohol content.
But much like pregnant women and Arby's diners, in the depths of cold some drinkers turn to odd tastes. That's how I found myself sucking down a beer milkshake at the Boulder Beer Company's pub. See also: Boulder Beer has been shaking up its lineup, most notably with Shake
There are two schools of thought when it comes to beer milkshakes: "Ooh, that sounds cool," and "Ooh, I'd rather drink industrial pet food runoff." But despite a small cadre of haters, beer milkshakes are slowly dripping into the mainstream. Red Robin has been leading the charge, offering shakes made with Sam Adams and Blue Moon. The Smashburger on the 16th Street Mall has also experimented with milkshakes made with local beers.
But that's casual dining, where you can count on anything and everything to be tossed in a blender with Kahlua. The best way to experience a beer shake is with a quality beer, preferably a strong stout or porter. A porter like Boulder Beer's Shake Chocolate Porter, for example.
As an apple-cheeked youngster, I remember being fascinated with the Planet Porter Shake on Boulder Beer's menu. The combination of ice cream and alcohol befuddled me, but now that craft beer and wacky desserts are hotter than ever, beer shakes and beer floats are de rigeur at taprooms like Boulder and Breckenridge.
After Boulder Beer, which bills itself as Colorado's first microbrewery, discontinued its Planet Porter, its new Shake porter stepped up to the plate. "We tried it in a couple small batches before, and we had people who would come in and just leave if we didn't have it," says Manager Corey Yauch.
It's one of the most chocolatey beers on the shelves, thanks to the cacao nibs added in the brewing process. The first time I tried it, I knew it would make a great milkshake. "The chocolate flavor is a little more prevalent now," Yauch says. "We use a little bit less of the Hershey's syrup, because you get more chocolate flavor from the actual beer."
The complexity of Shake ($5.25) lends itself quite well to a semi-viscous form. Notes of malt and coffee are complemented rather than smothered by cream and sugar. And you can even try it at home with whatever beer pleases you. I will award +10 Internet Points to the first person to attempt a hillbilly shake with Natty Light, Jagermeister, and Blue Bell ice cream. Beer milkshake
4 oz. Shake Chocolate Porter (or other preferred dark beer) 3 scoops vanilla ice cream 2 oz. milk (or to taste) Chocolate syrup (to taste) Whipped cream 1 oz. bourbon (optional)
Combine milk, beer and ice cream in a blender. Remember to put the lid on. Blend until smooth. Garnish with chocolate syrup and whipped cream. Hours later, awake with your head in an ice cream carton with a drained six-pack by your side, with no recollection of the past few hours.
With every installment of Coming of Age with 21 Drinks, I'll be featuring a cocktail recipe cooked up by me or the bar itself. Have a suggestion for a place I should visit? Post it below.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.