12 bartenders share the best beer and bourbon pairings

One of the best ways to enjoy bourbon is to drink it with an accompanying beer. Sometimes known as a coppersmith (usually when the whiskey is in shot form), this combo is a favorite of drinkers and bartenders alike. In theory, beer often acts as a sort of chaser for the hotter alcohol you enjoy as a main course. “A beer back” as aficionados call it.

Charles Bement, sommelier and director of beverages at B. Hospitality in Chicago, likes the bourbon-beer pairing. According to him, the choice of beer is just as important as the whiskey, as the two have to play against each other.

“I think making IPA and bourbon can be overwhelming,” says Bement. “The lager has just enough weight and citrus components to pair well with the caramel notes you get on a good Kentucky bourbon.”

To that end, we’ve commissioned a handful of well-known bartenders to pair the beers they love with bourbons to shed some light on the beer problem for all of us. They did not disappoint in their selections. Check them all, below!

Shiner Bock and Buffalo Trace

bison track

Kristan Arnold, bartender at Elgin Public House in Chicago

ABV: 45%

Average price: $24

Why this pairing?

At my bar, we do a bock and bourbon special with Shiner Bock and Buffalo Trace Bourbon. They are a perfect combo. Both have subtle complexities of bittersweet caramel notes that are perfect for an after-work combo.

Budweiser and Jim Beam White Label

White Label Jim Beam
Jim Beam

Andrew Guerin, bartender at Bourbon O Bar in New Orleans

ABV: 40%

Average price: $20

Why this pairing?

I’m a bit of a classic on this. Give me a picture of Jim Beam and a Budweiser. I know exactly what I get every time – classic caramel, vanilla and oak bourbon flavors and crisp with a thirst-quenching beer that tastes like beer.

Golden Road Mango Cart and Eagle Rare 10

rare eagle 10
rare eagle

Daniel Yang, head bartender at the Electra Cocktail Club in Las Vegas

ABV: 45%

Average price: $48

Why this pairing?

It might sound a bit strange, but I would personally choose a nice chilled glass full of Golden Road’s Mango Cart, which is a mild, mango-flavored wheat beer that provides a nice balance to the drier finish of my Eagle pour Rare 10 year old Bourbon. Having a nice contrast between the refreshing fruit aroma and the bold, woody flavors of the bourbon makes the tasting even better.

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and Frey Ranch Bourbon

Frey Ranch Bourbon
Frey Ranch Bourbon

Lewis Caputa, head bartender at Rosina Cocktail Lounge in Las Vegas

ABV: 45%

Average price: $55

Why this pairing?

That question depends on my mood, but I’ll go with a Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and a really strong, flavorful bourbon like Frey Ranch. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is a modern classic to me. The chocolate really stands out in the mouth. Frey Ranch is excellent because of the cinnamon notes that come out of your nose and taste. Chocolate and cinnamon? Great combo.

Trumer Pils and IW Harper 15

IW Harper 15
IW Harper

Evan Hosaka, head bartender at Dorsey Cocktail Bar in Las Vegas

ABV: 43%

Average price: $93

Why this pairing?

Trumer Pils alongside IW Harper 15 Year Old Bourbon is my favorite combination as it takes me back to an earlier time in my bartending career when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. Trumer Pils is a refreshing pilsner at around 4.7% ABV while the IW Harper 15 is light in alcohol for bourbon at 43% ABV. But, it offers heavy and sensational flavors on the palate with hints of oak, caramel, spice and vanilla. The distillery has been around for a long time but mainly produced for the international market until it was brought back to the domestic market in 2015.

Pabst Blue Ribbon and Old Grandpa Tied

Old Grandpa Bound
Jim Beam

Joshua Scheid, Beverage Manager at REX at The Royal in Philadelphia

ABV: 50%

Average price: $20

Why this pairing?

If I go for beer and bourbon, there’s nothing like a cold PBR and a glass of Old Grand-Dad Bonded. The extra punch of bourbon bound with the sweetness of PBR’s grocery store white bread is so comforting.

Neko no Sukiyoubi and Savage & Cooke Burning Chair

Savage & Cooke Burning Chair
Wild and Cooke

Mariza Sabino, general manager of Dirty Habit in San Francisco

ABV: 44%

Average price: $55

Why this pairing?

My favorite right now is Neko no Sukiyoubi (Wednesday Cat White Ale) and Burning Chair by Savage & Cooke. I love the barrel notes in the Burning Chair and there are sweet tropical notes that pair perfectly with the sweet fruit and malt of the beer.

Miller High Life and Maker’s Mark 46

Manufacturer's mark 46
Maker

Stephen Ohalloran, bar manager at the Camino Riviera in San Diego

ABV: 45%

Average price: $40

Why this pairing?

Try not to overthink this one. I go with a Makers 46 and Miller High Life. It’s an innocuous beer that can go with just about anything, paired with a nice, slightly tougher bourbon to spice it up a bit.

Coors Light Reserve and Woodford

Woodford Reserve
Woodford Reserve

Claire Sexton, bar manager at the Kettner Exchange in San Diego

ABV: 45.2%

Average price: $35

Why this pairing?

Guilty Pleasure – I like light beer. I’ve worked in craft bars my entire adult life. And even with endless options of spirits from faraway lands behind the bar, I always lean towards an ice-cold lager like Coors Light and a good old Woodford Reserve bourbon to sip while closing.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Bulleit

Bulleit
Bulleit

Subhash Sankar, Head Mixologist at Alaia Belize in San Pedro Town, Belize

ABV: 45%

Average price: $30

Why this pairing?

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Bulleit Bourbon are my picks. If you are looking for something lighter and more hoppy, the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale would be fantastic. It has a strong, astringent flavor, so it’s a good palate cleanser against the bourbon.

Stella Artois and Maker’s Mark

Manufacturer's mark
Manufacturer’s mark

Aaron Ramirez, head bartender at Mr. C Beverly Hills in Los Angeles

ABV: 45%

Average price: $28

Why this pairing?

After a long day of work, I love settling in with a boilermaker. In my opinion, the best combination for this is Maker’s Mark and Stella Artois Lager. The sweet, woody, almost caramelized notes of the bourbon complement the almost fruity notes of the Lager.

Whiner NWAR Tsokolate Stout and PEU

LITTLE
LITTLE

Nicholas Webster, bar manager and Fulton Market Kitchen in Chicago

ABV: 46.5%

Average price: $40

Why this pairing?

Pairing Few Bourbon with a dark chocolate stout can help quell springtime cravings. Whiner Beer Company’s NWAR Tsokolate stout is one of my favorites to pair with FEW. Notes of chocolate, coffee and toasted coconut complement the rich caramel and spicy clove flavors of FEW Bourbon.

Comments are closed.