Last updated on November 17th, 2016
My latest column for The Kitchn, suggesting a bunch of Belgian- and German-style wheat ales as alternatives to Blue Moon, left me with a fridge full of witbiers and weizens. This is no hardship, since it’s one of my favorite beer styles—and the subject of an epiphany of its own, when I pulled up a stool at Sheffield’s in Chicago way back in the distant year 2000, ordered a Pyramid hefeweizen, took a sip, and promptly marveled at the creamy, citrusy tastes that were so far from the flavorless filtered lagers of my college years.
There is, however, a lot of beer in my house right now. (Did I also mention that I restocked my beer cellar to shoot photos for a piece on how to build a beer cellar?) And while beer on its own is just dandy, the particular flavor profile of the wheat ale family makes it a prime candidate for goosing up in a cocktail. The beer’s de facto pairing is a lemon or orange wedge to complement the spicy notes of clove, coriander, and nutmeg and the sweet honey undertones in the brew—so it would be easy to blend it with orange juice as in a beer shandy and leave it at that. But for this particular version, I had another fruit in mind.
The Smoking Guns, a rum-based drink from New York’s The Wallflower, might be my new favorite cocktail, blending smoked pineapple syrup, lime juice, and habañero bitters with a Laphroaig float. The combination of pineapple with spice and smoke is compelling on its own, but these complementary tastes lend themselves to the creamy sweetness of a witbier or weissbier as well.
Grab a fresh pineapple to make this cocktail sing—while you can get away with simply juicing the pineapple without charring it first, I love the way the caramelized fruit adds depth to the drink. You’ll get the most juice from your pineapple by using a slow juicer, which presses the fruit instead of shredding it with a high-speed blade, but you can use whatever you have available. If you have a blender, puree the fruit and press through a fine-mesh strainer to extract as much juice as you can; just know that you may not get the full 2 cups the recipe calls for.
(Side note: I’m also now a Cicerone Certified Beer Server who’s working on becoming a Certified Cicerone. There are about 35,000 Certified Beer Servers who have successfully completed the first level of the certification program in North America and the UK—that’s the population of a small town! Not all of us may end up as true cicerones, but even at this introductory tier, that’s quite a few more-than-casual beer drinkers. Craft beer has arrived, and to that, I say bottoms up.)
Pineapple-Chile Hefeweizen Beer Cocktail
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Makes 8 drinks
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 Thai or serrano chile, stem removed and coarsely chopped
- zest of 1 lime
- 1 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1 tablespoon organic canola or vegetable oil
- 4 12-oz. hefeweizen beers
- 4 limes for juicing
Make the lime-chile simple syrup:
Add the sugar, water, chile, and lime zest to a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar dissolves.
Let the syrup steep for 20 minutes, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the chile and zest.
Make the caramelized pineapple juice:
Heat a cast-iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat.
Brush 4-5 pineapple slices (enough to fill the pan without crowding) with the oil on one side and place in the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the pineapple is deeply charred. Brush the other side of each slice with oil, flip, and cook until charred.
Transfer the caramelized pineapple slices to a cutting board and repeat with the remaining slices.
Chop the caramelized pineapple into chunks, then run the chunks through a juicer. You should get about 2 cups of juice from 1 pineapple.
(Alternatively, you can grill the pineapple on a gas or charcoal grill.)
Make the drinks:
For 2 drinks, mix 1/2 cup pineapple juice, 2 tablespoons chile-lime simple syrup, and the juice of 1 lime in a cocktail shaker. Carefully pour 1 12-oz. hefeweizen beer into the shaker and stir gently. Divide between 2 ice-filled highball glasses.
For 1 pitcher of drinks, combine all the pineapple juice, 1/2 cup chile-lime simple syrup, and the juice of 4 limes in a 2-quart pitcher. Carefully pour 4 12-oz. hefeweizen beers into the pitcher and stir gently. Divide between 8 ice-filled highball glasses.