Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Booze of the Week: Red Beer

I'm stretching a guess here, but I'm thinking that the idea of mixing a nice cold beer with a few ounces of tomato juice originated after the Great Depression as the "poor man's Bloody Mary." So it's rather appropriate that this delicious classic drink has made somewhat of a trendy comeback lately with the current crumbling national economy forcing folks to pinch pennies and forgo the Petrone in favor of Pabst. The introduction of another liquid, usually provided free of charge, into your favorite cheap American brew stretches a pitcher of by at least a pint or two. Down at the local watering hole, we've become so used to ordering a frosty Kokanee with a side of salty Clamato that plain beer now seems shockingly naked without it.

Some prefer red beer with just regular tomato juice but that's a terribly boring idea to me, all watered down with not enough twang. Some do V8, but V8 is way too thick and makes your beer seem frighteningly close to some nightmare organic bisque. I know some people who are Clamato-squeamish for some silly reason, but to me its celery-salt infused tanginess is the perfect beer mixer. Are they afraid of clams? I'm not even convinced that actual clams were ever involved with making Clamato; the ingredients list "reconstituted dried clam broth" which sounds like clam water dust to me. The mix of mass-market beer and Clamato is know as a "Red Eye" in Canada and parts of the US., including my bathroom mirror the morning after.

Apparently I'm not the only fan of this concoction. The brilliant minds at the Anheuser-Busch laboratories have recently sent into production a line of 24 oz. cans of Budweiser and Bud Light mixed factory-style with Clamato "and a hint of lime and salt." These "Cheladas" cost about a buck more than a normal can of beer that size might cost, which makes them spendy compared to their bar-bound counterpart, but they actually taste surprisingly terrific and are worth it. It can be just so darn difficult to mix beer and clamato on your own sometimes (well, after three or-so pitchers), so it's terribly convenient to have them pre-mixed and ready to go. Why not take the idea a step further? Pre-made Bloody Marys in big bottles with all the pickled asparagus and green olives etc, sold in mild or hot varieties. Just pour over ice and serve!

Red beer is good in the afternoon. I seem to have vague 70's memories of my parents thinking Red beer was good in the morning too. Every bar serves red beer, and it's a recipe that's impossible to for the bartender to mess up, although some places are notoriously stingy on the red (that means you, Iron Horse). I've also heard that the citric quality of the tomato juice helps neutralize and slow absorption of alcohol, resulting in a lighter effect. That's a very good thing if you'll be driving home later, and if you're walking that's okay too, you'll just have to drink twice as much. Prost!

1 comment:

OrangeTV said...

From Huckleberries Online:

Question: Which beer is your favorite? And do you ever put tomato juice/V-8, etc. in it?
Posted by DFO | 25 Apr 1:28 PM

There are 8 comments on this post. (XML Subscribe to comments on this post)

Guiness and Bass Ale Black and Tan.
Posted by JIMMYMAC | 25 Apr 2:10 PM

Drinking a Widmer Crimson Wheat '08 as we speak, er type.

There are too many good beers out there to have a favorite one. And no, the addition of an ingredient that would change the brewmaster's vision is tantamount to heresy.
Posted by Chris | 25 Apr 2:26 PM

Diamond Knot Brown on a Nitro Pour - yum. Or perhaps a good industrial, cask conditioned IPA.

Oh, and tomato juice does not belong in beer!
Posted by idawa | 25 Apr 2:42 PM

I know a lot of guys consider it a "girly" beer, but for me there's nothing quite so refreshing on a hot summer afternoon as a frosty Pyramid Apricot Weizen Ale. And, no, I would certainly not put tomato juice in it. I am gagging at the thought!
Posted by Ciaobino | 25 Apr 3:16 PM

Red beers are best when you start with a nice, watery lager. Best I've ever had was made with Grain Belt a slightly sweet micro-macro that's the cheap beer of choice in Minneapolis. Locally, Kokanee does just fine. If it isn't a beer you'd want to crack open on a sweltering summer day, it probably won't work.

My preference is to pour a 12-oz beer into a pint glass and top it off with tomato juice. But proportions will vary with taste.

I can see how someone would consider the concoction to be heresy. But try one with a juicy, rare steak sometime...
Posted by Ken Paulman | 25 Apr 3:18 PM

Something's gone very wrong if red beer is now considered trendy.
Posted by MikeS | 25 Apr 3:29 PM

My favorite beer is Rolling Rock, but making a red beer I use G.H.'s Bloody Mary Mix recipe with a can of light beer.
Posted by inlandempiregirl | 25 Apr 4:36 PM

Maybe Ken will agree with me: one of my initial, of many, disappointments living in Eugene and crawling in and out of bars in the University area was I never saw anyone drink a red beer.

Kellogg friends who came to Eugene to see the Ducks play football back in the early 80's did not hesitate, nor did I, to order red pitchers for morning beer before we headed to Autzen Stadium.

I don't drink much anymore, but I love red beers. It bugs me that no one down here in Eugene seems to drink 'em.

Maybe I just have gone to the wrong joints.

Posted by Raymond Pert | 26 Apr 11:17 AM