Just getting into craft whiskey? Let these craft beers be the gateway.
I always say that I discovered craft beer through journalism. I became the editor of a craft beer magazine, and by default became a connoisseur. And then via craft beer I discovered craft spirits. I can say the same for most of the distillers I’ve met.
These distillers I’ve interviewed, who often have to call me back because they are mashing in or hand-milling botanicals, have all told me the same line, give or take a few words: In order to make whiskey, you have to make beer first.
Yuseff Cherney, the COO head brewer and head distiller at Ballast Point Brewery and Distillery in San Diego, California, co-founded the brewery in 1996 and started making gin and rum in 2008. His award-winning bourbon will hit the market soon, too.
“If you remove the hops from a mild beer,” says Cherney, “[You have] almost what the whiskey started as. That beer could become something like that whiskey is given the right distillation technique and barrel aging.”
Cherney says you’re likely to enjoy the whiskeys that have similar flavor profiles to your favorite beers. I’ve taken his advice to put this guide together: If you like these beers, then you should try these whiskeys.
Amber Ale to Tennessee Whiskey
Amber ale tends to be deep and rich, but not quite as intense as a lot of bitter IPAs. Tennessee Whiskey tends to have rich flavors, but tastes lighter and a bit sweeter than bourbon. Amber ale drinkers will rave about the smooth heat of Cascade Hollow Tennessee Whiskey.
IPA to Rye Whiskey
You like your hops, and you can handle a hot beer that has a high alcohol percentage. Just like IPA, rye whiskey is bold, slightly spicy and astringent. Try the High West Double Rye Whiskey for a spirit with some serious kick.
Porter to Bourbon
“If you like our Victory at Sea Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter, you’d appreciate a bourbon with a lot of vanilla flavor in it,” says Cherney. Try a rich bourbon like Finger Lakes Distilling’s McKenzie Bourbon, which we think tastes like an alcoholic candy bar.
Stout to Irish Whiskey
Guinness drinkers, go for a Irish-style whiskey. Not only do your favorite beer and your new favorite whiskey come from the same country, but both are also quite similar in flavor. Stout might look dark, but it’s flavor is typically sweet and its body light, just like many of the whiskeys coming out of the Emerald Isle. You’ll be overjoyed with the burnt sugar and almond flavors of the Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey.
Wheat Beer to Single Malt Whiskey
Wheat beer, such as Hefeweizen, is usually made with malted barley, and it takes on a cloudy color, a thicker texture and a cereal-like grain flavor. Many Belgian-style wheat beers are also slightly sour. Smoky Scotch whisky lends itself to that flavor profile, says Cherney. Wheat beer drinkers should go for the Corsair Triple Smoke Single Malt Whiskey.