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Beertails Concept Seeks To Make Adding Beer To Cocktails Fun, Foolproof

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Aug 10, 2012 7:00PM

The Birds and the Brews" (left) and "Rub and Rye" (right)

With his chef-like approach to crafting cocktail recipes and liqueurs like HUM Spirit, Adam Seger is one of the founding fathers of Chicago’s current cocktail renaissance, with an influence that reaches across the country. Sometimes, however, Seger’s best ideas come from screwing around his home bar.

Seger’s current project, Beertails, came from such a session. The concept is simple: look for ways to make cocktails that incorporated beer as an ingredient that went beyond a michelada. One major roadblock Seger found as he developed the concept was that breweries weren’t exactly keen to assist. “Brewers make beer to be enjoyed on their own,” Seger said, “It reminded me a lot like how bourbon distilleries were slow to embrace the cocktail; they wanted their product to be enjoyed on their own initially. Now they can’t wait to get their product into mixologists’ hands to come up with amazing drinks.”

Seger eventually found people willing to listen in Kansas City-based sommelier and author Doug Frost, renowned mixologist Francesco Lafranconi, and beer experts/importers Wendy Littlefield and Don Feinberg of Vanberg & DeWulf, Ltd., who were instrumental with bringing Belgian beer to the United States. All of them realized that what Seger was doing was nothing new but could be resurrected to a new audience of interested bartenders and consumers.

Feinberg and Littlefield offered Seger their complete beer portfolio with which to find the best beers for his cocktails, while he, Frost and Lafranconi drafted a manifesto they dubbed “Rheinheitsgebeer,” the Beertails Purity Law. It's a guideline Seger, Frost and Lafranconi created to help people make their own beer cocktails. (We’ve included it below.)

Seger invited me to join him, Littlefield and Feinberg at Farmhouse a couple of weeks back to watch a dry run of a Beertails seminar he was set to moderate at the recent Tales of the Cocktail festival in New Orleans. The practice run was low on talk except for Seger to explain the concept behind Beertails, but heavy on sampling. To have a reference for Seger’s recipes, we were asked to sample the cocktail before he added the beer, so that we could taste how the addition of beer changes the overall flavor profile of the cocktail. The Beertails concept also falls in line with Seger’s belief to look for the best ingredients you can afford and simply enjoy working with them until you come up with a cocktail you’ll enjoy.

Rheinheitsgebeer (Beertails Purity Law)