Can craft beer be an ingredient in a cocktail, or should it stand alone?
That is the question that dozens of bartenders around town have tried to answer over the past few years as Colorado's world-beating craft-beer industry intersected with the resurgent cocktail movement. It's a question that still hasn't been answered.
But eight of Denver's best mixologists gave it a serious shot on Sunday afternoon, when they broke out their strainers, their potions and their amazing creativity for the great Beer Cocktail Shakedown at Ghost Plate & Tap. Want to see the pictures? Then check out our slide show, "Beer Cocktail Shakedown at Ghost Plate & Tap."
The bartenders were Aaron Forgy of Freshcraft, Justin Lloyd of Star Bar, Donnell Cowell of Corner Office, Tess Preston of Wynkoop Brewing Co., Kevin Deming (formerly) of Euclid Hall, Tony Giovanni of Gaetano's, Matt Legrige of the Kitchen, and Tyler Lewis of TAG.
Each artist prepared a drink using a beer of his or her choice from either the Wynkoop or Breckenridge breweries, along with liquor from Campari or Southern Wine & Spirits.
The cocktails were then presented to a panel of distinguished, and increasingly drunken, judges made up of Kyle Clark from 9News, P.J. Hoberman of Denver Off the Wagon, Westword Cafe Society editor Lori Midson and myself. The three finalists -- Preston, Deming and Lewis -- then had to make up two more cocktails on the fly using two different beers.
The eventual winner (I think) was Deming, and here's why: He was able to put the flavor of the beers he used -- Breckenridge's Oatmeal Stout and Agave Wheat and Wynkoop's B3K -- at the forefront of the cocktails in a way that complemented both. That wasn't an easy task, considering how easy it is to overwhelm beer with spirits.
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Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan