Revenge of the Old Beer Nerd: Steinlager Cocktails

Neil McInnes shows how to amp up your Steinlager

I had a beer epiphany the other day that went like this: “I have been drinking Steinlager (on and off) for over 35 years”.

As a result of this revelation I feel I am a foundation customer and am therefore entitled to feck about with it as much as I like.

The original Steinlager, now called Classic, was my first target. I can recall that before 6 packs of stubbies became the industry standard, these came in 24 bottle wooden crates – something of an instant party. Today, Steinlager Classic has a flinty, single dimensional bitterness that comes from the exclusive use of green bullet hops. These “brewery workhorse” hops were a scientific breakthrough for NZ in the 70s and have global recognition in the brewing trade, but for many their refreshing bitterness is not enough. Grassy and piney, possibly floral notes are the most you can expect.

The beer cocktail I remember drinking with Steinlager as a young wastrel was a variation on the depth charge:

  • Put a single shot of Drambuie in a 6oz glass fill with half a bottle of Steinlager Classic.
  • Drink.
  • Repeat.

The honey and spicy heathery notes in the Drambuie add to the hop aromatics and the sweetness fills out the palate. Even better, it makes it 8 per cent ABV. Match with sweet and salty popcorn.

The new Steinlager Tokyo Dry is a young man’s beer: cool marketing but no malt character. As a consequence, you can treat this as a bitter soft drink to top up your spirit cocktail base:

  • Place a double lemon vodka (peel 1-2 lemons – make sure there’s no pith – and steep in 200 ml of vodka for 2-3 days, shaking occasionally), a teaspoon of sugar syrup and a segment of lime in a shaker with ice.
  • Shake and pour into a tall class.
  • Top with ice cold Tokyo Dry.

The Steinlager light beer is now called Mid Strength (though it’s 2.5 per cent ABV). For a while this was my go to light beer because while light bodied, the hop ratio stopped it being too insipid. Making a lighter, fruitier mixed drink is recommended and I suggest a variation on a lager and lime:

  • Take some lime syrup, add ice and a slice of lemon or lime.
  • Top with Mid Strength and a lemonade.
  • Stir and drink with a straw.

For me Steinlager Pure is the best thing that’s happened to Steinlager in years – i.e. since they went back to being an all malt beer in the late 1990s. The addition of Pacific Jade and Nelson Sauvin hops adds a balancing roundness to the hop character, making it less one dimensional. I have therefore decided not to stuff about with this one much. Just add half a slice of orange to your glass of Pure – it adds some sweet fruity flavours.

So the next time you’re trapped in a one horse, one beer kind of place, try one of these.

Back to The Pursuit of Hoppiness April 2017


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