Brewing a Better Bar

A marriage of microbrews and mixers makes a specialty bar that sparkles.

By Geneveive Leiper

Beer Bar

Bill Justus, executive chef at The Boar’s Head Inn in Charlottesville may just be the beer-conscious wedding couple’s new best friend.

His contribution to the going-strong trend of the wedding reception specialty bar—champagne, Bloody Mary, cigars and nuts among them—is the beer bar: a selection of microbrews, mixers and garnishes that will elevate beer from the bachelor party to even the most elegant of reception cocktail hours.

And it doesn’t need to be complicated to please hops-loving palates. Justus says offering three to five choices of beer is plenty: The basic lineup should include one light and one dark lager, a traditional label and a local microbrew, if available. But this is not a bid to souse the guests. Beer sampling—like two-bite desserts and small plates—is a trend too these days, so Justus uses sample-sized glasses (3- to 5- ounces).

Ginger syrup, orange, lemon or lime slices, even energy drinks like Red Bull belong in the well-accoutered beer bar. While salt as a mixer is no surprise, Justus recommends offering salts of different flavors. “Tabasco, for instance, does a spicy salt,” he says. And you can make plain old sea salt sing with dried herbs of just about any variety. “People who are a little more adventurous might try habanero powder or curry powder,” says Justus, adding that Cayenne also gives most brews a nice kick. Seasonal beers, like pumpkin in fall, could benefit from a sprinkle of allspice or cinnamon. And any time is a good time for a little citrus. “Just dry the fruit rinds, and grind them up,” says Justus. And all dispense nicely from salt-and-pepper shakers.

When all is done, some beer enthusiasts will have expanded their repertoire. And non-enthusiasts? With all the opportunities to make a beer one’s own, Justus is betting there will be more than a couple of converts. BoarsHeadInn.com


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