| The Real Red Beer
by Chris Brewster
Hi Bob -
Greetings from the Midwest, specifically Nebraska. Around here and
throughout this region of the country there is something called Red
Beer. I've never seen any mention of it in your column or on
BeerNexus so I thought I'd clue everyone in on our specality.
Let me tell you, it's Incredibly popular as a morning libation. Think of
it as the michelada’s mysterious Midwestern cousin. Essentially it's
a: light domestic beer mixed with a healthy blob of tomato juice.
Sometimes a red beer can also be known as a red eye, red rooster,
red draw, bloody beer, or Montana Mary. At a dive bar or a
steakhouse you can get one without fuss though a bartender at a
more upscale place, if they agree to mix one for you, might serve it
with a side of condescension.
Like many other beloved regional dishes, the progenitor of red beer
is unclear, but the simplest version of red beer’s murky origin story is
that it was imported from Mexican drinking culture. Micheladas, or
beer flavored with a combination of tomato juice, lime, salt, and
various spices, sauces, and seasonings, are one of the most
popular alcoholic drinks in Mexico, and well-known to taco lovers and
brunch-goers in America’s cities.
According to legend, the michelada was invented as a hangover
cure by a bartender at Potosino Sports Club in San Luis Potosí in
the 1960s, and its ingredients vary by region. It can be as simple as
salt and lemon, or it can include bouillon powder, chamoy, tomato
juice, or Clamato. (Major brewers have been attuned to the drink’s
appeal for some time: Anheuser-Busch sells a beer pre-mixed with
Clamato, salt, and lime.)
We Midwesterners usually add tomato juice to Michelob, Keystone,
Bud Light, or Busch Light (often referred to by bros as “Busch
Latté”), and most of us don’t adhere to a standard for the ratio of
beer to “red,” leaving it up to drinkers’ individual tastes.
One theory I heard says that red beer’s popularity might have to do
with the historical unavailability of more flavorful beers in small
towns. For the older generation, especially here in rural Nebraska it
would be rare to see anything but light domestics on the menu so
red beer is a way to get a drink with more flavor and depth. It’s still
relatively hard for me to find tap beer in a lot of small towns. But
don't worry, nobody uses a craft when they're making a red beer..
Almost everywhere you can find Busch Light or Bud Light so that's
the usual choice.
Part of the drink’s appeal is also the adjustability of the tomato-to-
beer ratio: Some red beer drinkers are just beginning to consume
alcohol, while others use it — much like a bloody mary — as the hair
of the dog.
You also can dress up this drink's flavor a bit. If you happen to have
a Bloody Mary mix in the refrigerator, go ahead and use that.
Should you opt for the straight pour of tomato juice, don't skip the
salt. It marries the two flavors together, which is why bartenders will
often give you a salt shaker when you order a red beer. Just a pinch
will do and be sure not to overdo it because it can quickly become
If you like, add a dash of hot sauce, a grind of pepper, or a pinch of
celery salt to the mix. Be sure to go slow, stir the drink, and give it a
taste before adding anything else. After a red beer or two, you'll find
the perfect combination of your personal taste.
I see it as a relatively light cocktail, which is why it's long been a
morning favorite of mine..If you begin with a 5.0 percent ABV beer,
the finished red-eye will be brought down to a mere 4.2 percent ABV.
Hope some of your readers who have ever heard of it give Red Beer
a try. They just might like it!
Thanks Chris!. I never realized how popular Red Beer is or what
exactly it was as opposed to beer that is brewed to a red hue. It
sounds like a fun, easy going drink. Special thanks those tips on how to
make it. Articles like yours are what make this column fun for me and
Again, many thanks for sending your article.
I'd like to invite everyone to send me their own columns about anything
related to beer in any way just as Chris did. I select the best and
publish them here. So join in and get writing!
|BeerNexus proudly presents
"the ombudsman of beer"
Bob and Friends Speak of Beer......
|Want to be a "friend of Bob"
and write a guest column?
Just e-mail your article to
|Bob does not verify authorship of
articles. All articles are assumed to
be written by the sender.