Beer cocktail menu a National sensation
Joint serves up hybrid drinks in mason jars
What do you order at a beer hall if you don’t like beer? A beer cocktail, of course.
Now, the obvious question is, what are you doing at a beer joint if you’d rather be drinking a Dark & Stormy? But the new National beer hall in Calgary’s Beltline is no ordinary ale and lager watering hole. For one, it’s a bright open space instead of a dark dungeon. For another, it lacks those ubiquitous pub TV screens broadcasting sports.
Located on the northeast corner of 17th Avenue and 5th Street S.W., banks of windows let in natural light and white brick walls contrast nicely with the dark wood floors and harvest tables. Since there’s nothing to stare at except the funky “train station departures-style” beer list above the bar, or the bottom of another empty pint glass, you’re forced to socialize — an easy task thanks to the communal tables.
National also serves what I’m going to call upscale pub grub; think duck confit poutine, Shrimp Louie in a jar (so delish) and spicerubbed roast chicken.
“We’ve really focused on the food, not just the beer,” says managing partner Jon Molyneux.
So, you can see how National might appeal to the non-beer/non-pub crowd.
Perhaps in anticipation of serving this demographic, Brad Morrison, vice-president of Concorde Group Entertainment (which owns National), asked Model Milk bartender Stephen Phipps to help him create a cocktail menu. There are only eight drinks featured — compared with 70 North American beers on tap, plus a hard cider, non-alcoholic ginger beer and a bunch of bottled options — but National has sold more than 10,000 cocktails since opening in June, says Phipps.
“It’s a big beer hall that’s selling a ton of cocktails,” he says. “We don’t want to take the attention away from the beer; we just want to give people a different option.”
I hate to break it to you, but serving boozy guzzlers in a one-litre Mason jar kind of steals the thunder from a measly pint of beer. And the fact that you can get a litre of margarita or Bellini for $15 is probably 1 1/2 oz Gosling’s Black Seal rum
1 oz 5 oz ger beer 3 to 5 heavy dashes Angostura bitters
Build over ice in a 16-oz pint glass, stir, serve. 2 oz gin (this drink is made with vodka at National, but bartender Stephen Phipps recommends using gin if you prefer)
1/2 oz 4 oz Minute Maid pink lemonade
top with wheat beer (Phipps uses Blanche de Chambly by Unibroue)
fresh lime juice
Grizzly Paw gin-
Build over ice in a 16-oz pint glass, adding the wheat beer last to achieve the layering effect (pink on bottom, yellow on top). helping sales along. Customers are also curious about the beer cocktails.
My favourite is the Dark & Stormy (see recipe). It’s basically ginger beer tarted up with lime juice and spiked with dark rum, with some dashes of bitters for an extra kick. So simple, yet so tasty.
Phipps fancies the Hound Dog Hooch (see recipe). It was his summertime poolside drink of choice growing up in Ontario. Just mix vodka (or gin) with Minute Maid pink lemonade and top with wheat beer.
“Before I was cool and knew about gin, we used vodka,” he jokes, adding that the drink is kind of “ghetto,” but awesome nonetheless.
Other beer cocktails include a Pimm’s Cup made with ginger beer and the National Caesar, which calls for a splash of IPA. Phipps plans to add more beer cocktails when the fall menu comes out.
In the meantime, get your fill of these hybrids or the traditional cocktails. Just beware the one-litre Hound Dog Hooch — it will make you feel like dancing on your harvest table.
I’m not sure how such beer hall-like behaviour would go over in this classy joint (probably swimmingly, but you never know).
Stephen Phipps of the National beer hall mixes a Hound Dog Hooch, his favourite on the popular cocktail menu.
National beer hall’s Dark and Stormy cocktail, served up in a large Mason jar, is basically ginger beer tarted up with lime juice and spiked with dark rum.
The Hound Dog Hooch combines vodka (or gin) with pink lemonade and wheat beer. Cocktails like this could steal the thunder from regular pints of beer.