Cooler weather calls for extra layers; a fortifying nip of spirit with your ale, for example – otherwise known as the boilermaker.
Once a fast and furious anesthetic for the working man after a hard day at the blast furnace, the beer-and-whiskey-shot combo now inhabits high-end cocktail dens, with craft rums, mezcal, sherries and small batch craft brews and ciders all joining the two-piece party.
Good bartenders see the boilermaker as a way to explore the flavour profiles of both drinks by matching either their contrasting or complementary notes. Like cheese and wine pairings, the delight is in the interplay, and a great boilermaker is far more than the sum of its parts.
While the old fashioned way was to slam it down like medicine, or even drop the shot into the beer as a “depth charger”, the modern boilermaker and its gourmet ingredients ask that you sip and savour.
At the country’s only bar built around the boilermaker, 900-plus whiskies and their craft beer suitors gaze longingly at each other across a crowded menu. Six are permanently paired up as house boilermakers.
For winter, the Kessel Run beckons. This $25 duo of Starward Red Wine Cask and Holgate Temptress Chocolate Porter comes with spiced banana chips (all the house boilermakers are served with a food match) to highlight the big warm hug of raw sugar, milk chocolate and cocoa sweetness that happens when these two play together.
If you’re keen to venture beyond the menu, manager Jimmy Burchett and his clued-up team will happily help you play cupid with endless combos.
- 209-211 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
- 8393 9367
Whisky and Alement
With a staggering 1000-plus whiskies and a team that worships at the altar of malt, this eight-year-old bar and its owners Brooke Hayman and Julian White provide a spectacular spotlight for the boilermaker.
Whisky And Alement serves $10 boilermakers daily between 4pm and 8pm, combing Belgian pilsner with a choice of four single malts and a rye. The boilermaker menu includes six “Glaswegians” – keenly priced combos including The Local, a $13.50 match of Starward Whisky wine cask and Stomping Ground pale ale – both with complementary fruit notes. “Both products are made locally, Starward in Port Melbourne and Stomping Ground in Collingwood,” White says.
- 270 Russell Street, Melbourne
- 9654 1284
Redwood Tasting Room
The Tasting Room is where craft beer importers Brian and Anika Labadie show their impressive wares, which pair beautifully with boutique spirits. For a real winter warmer, select the robust Six String Double Dark Red IPA and Laphroaig Select Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
The IPA, rich and sweet with strong malt backbone of caramel and chocolate, meets its match in the full-bodied, peat-bomb Laphroig and its heady, ripe fruit nose from Pedro Ximinez and Olorosso casks and American oak.
“This is a full-on boilermaker… like a warm blanket and crackling fire for your tastebuds,” says Brian.
- 345 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North.
- 0433 674 425
Regulars at this Brunswick Street institution are such boilermaker fans that one stops by on his daily run to refuel with The Caribbean, a beguiling union of Royal Jamaican Alcoholic Ginger Beer and shot of dark rum.
Another standout is assistant manager Emma Cookson’s pick, The Billycan. Here, Melbourne Moonshine’s Sour Mash Shine brings sweet, strong warmth and spicy, oaky notes of the barrel-aged white spirit made in south Melbourne from Victorian corn. Partnered with a clean, crisp, easy drinkin’ tinnie of Colonial Draught and priced at approachable $15, it’s an easy introduction to the formerly illegal delights of hooch – no handcuffs required.
- 401 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
- 9417 0880
At North Melbourne’s Joe Taylor, weekly boilermaker specials emerge from the team’s current spirit obsessions. The results are exciting.
There’s Alipus San Juan Espadin Mezcal with Naparbier “Crimson Bird” raspberry saison from Barcelona, and a Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Scottish Barley Scotch Whisky with Willie Smith vintage apple cider.
“The smoky, peaty whisky works well with the cider’s sweetness,” says manager Florian Rupp. Next up, he’s contemplating a two-shot boilermaker with a big bottle of Imperial stout – a real winter wonder.
Owner Seb Costello sources all his 500-plus spirits from Australia and of late he’s been introducing a few to sherry.
Ask him for one of his favourite matches: 60 mls of Seppeltsfield NV Solero DP117 Dry Flor Apera with 30 mls of the Starward Solera. Made in in Australian fortified wine barrels, the Starward greets the sherry with matching dried fruit notes.