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Behind Bars

Craft Beer Cocktail Competition

By Tess van Straaten

With names like North Sea Sundae, California Love and the grapefruit tea-syrup infused Japanese Garden, garnished with actual cherry blossoms, cocktail hour is getting even more creative! But these aren’t just any cocktails—they’re beer cocktails.

I’m at the Craft Beer Cocktail Competition at LURE Restaurant & Bar, where Nimble Bar Co. is having seven bartenders face off to create the best drink. The only criteria? The cocktails must include a local craft beer and a local spirit. And from sweet dessert-like drinks to sour sippers, the results are as unique as the mixologists.

“I love ‘90s hip-hop and I love rap, and I really wanted to lean into the California vibe,” explains California Love creator Kade Russell, as he uses a blow torch to finish off his Stillhead Rye Whiskey, Red Arrow Blood Orange Hefewizen Beer and Blood Orange Oleo concoction. “I think it resembles a California sunset and the (torch) gives it a smoky flavour and brings out the cigar smell.”

The tart taste is in stark contrast to the sweet and refreshing Freshly Baked, which uses Lighthouse Strawberry Rhubarb Wheat Beer and Devine Strawberry Eau de Vie to create the perfect summer sipper, topped with beer foam from a whipped cream canister and dehydrated rhubarb sticks and strawberries.

Like many of the cocktails, I wouldn’t have known it was made with beer. And some of the flavours and garnishes—from spruce tips and kelp to ice cream made from vanilla pistachio orgeat—were next level.

My two favourites were the Japanese Garden, which smelled amazing and paired the popular Sheringham Kazuki Gin with Sooke Oceanside Brewery Bonfire Blonde Ale, and the equally delicious North Sea Sunday, that had a little bit of heat to it.

“It has Devine Dutch Courage spirit, which is a cousin to gin. It’s still made of juniper berries like gin but it has more of a licorice vibe, and Lighthouse Peach Gose,” explains bartender Miko Scott, who was rocking a pirate vibe to go with his drink.

It tasted a bit like a dessert cocktail—proving that beer can mix well with almost anything.