I first started drinking Boilermakers in jazz clubs. Places like The Village Vanguard and 55 Bar have a two-drink minimum, but it’s a pain and a distraction to order a drink in the middle of a set of music, so I figured why not get a beer and a shot? To make them last through 45–60 minutes of music, I would sip slowly, back and forth. I quickly realized that the beer enhanced the whiskey, and vice versa. The Boilermaker has been my drink of choice ever since, and you can find it, in a bottomless variety of combos, almost anywhere you go to drink.
Below you’ll find six Boilermaker matchups I developed using Bulleit Bourbon and its Rye and 10-Year-Old variants. My first step was to get familiar with each beer and whiskey on its own, then I tried to match key flavors and aromas the way I would with a cocktail recipe. After a lot of back-and-forth tasting, and some tough calls, I paired each beer with a particular expression of Bulleit Whiskey. Each combo reveals or accentuates a flavor in both the beer and the whiskey that you might not have noticed drinking it alone. That’s what the best Boilermakers do.
All right, who’s thirsty? To the pairings—these are all two servings of alcohol, and meant to be sipped:
Pilsner & Bulleit Bourbon
The dry, pleasantly bitter finish of the excellent Pennsylvania-brewed craft pilsner I chose here accentuates the bourbon’s sweeter flavors, even bringing out a banana note. Add this to the long list of life’s simple pleasures.
Lager & Bulleit Rye
The bold nose and spicy flavor of the Bulleit Rye is balanced by the clean mid-palate of the East Coast craft lager I used for this matchup. It’s an amber lager with prevalent malt notes that hold up to the rye’s intense flavors better than a lighter lager would—yet the beer is still clean and refreshing-tasting.
Amber Ale & Bulleit Bourbon 10-Year-Old
The Michigan-based craft amber ale I selected for this pairing has concentrated roasted-malt aromas that combine extremely well with the vanilla and caramel nose of the 10-year-old whiskey. The flavors and mild heat of the whiskey bring out the ale’s yeast and malt flavors like toasting would to a slice of fresh bread.
IPA & Bulleit Rye
The Upper Midwest IPA I tabbed for this matchup is absolutely bursting with piney hop flavors and aromas, and it plays nicely with the spice in the rye, bringing out subtler elements of mint and citrus, even lemongrass. The rye in turn calls forth a pleasing buttery caramel flavor in the ale. These two bold liquids mesh powerfully, each highlighting unexpected accents in the other.
Porter & Bulleit Bourbon 10-Year-Old
Packed with rich coffee and luscious dark-chocolate flavors—without being overly sweet or too heavy—the Minnesota-brewed porter I chose here makes an excellent match for Bulleit Bourbon 10-year-old. Despite the beer’s strong flavor profile, it leaves room for the signature vanilla and fruit flavors of the whiskey to shine through. Sipping back and forth, the whiskey accentuates a pleasant caramel aroma in the beer. Another delicious duo; you’ll want to make it last.
Oatmeal Stout & Bulleit Bourbon
This is the most decadent combo I tried—definitely worth a slow sip and savor. The chocolate and coffee notes in the California oatmeal stout pair beautifully with the bourbon’s vanilla flavors, while the whiskey brings out the beer’s savory notes. The texture of the stout—fine carbonation, creamy from the oats—coats the palate in a way that mellows the whiskey and allows one to linger over its flavors.
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