One of my favorite scenes in all of cinema is when in “Dumb and Dumber,” Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne order four boilermakers for a crew of rural ruffians, then proceeded to skip out on the check. When I first watched the movie at the ripe age of 13, I laughed at the rouse of the whole thing: Those dumb farmers are getting tricked by even dumber people from the city! And every time I watch “Dumb and Dumber,” to this day, I laugh about some other crazy detail in the scene: Are these laid back country folk drinking hard booze in a diner? Is it even noon? What kind of grown man goes by the name “Seabass”? What kind of beer are they serving at this tiny little diner? And what kind of whiskey? And will that beer/whiskey combo pair well with the soup du jour?
The term “boilermaker” doesn’t really get used a lot, but it is frequently ordered, whether you know it or not. It’s a shot of whiskey and pint of beer. An Irish Car Bomb or shot of Jameson and pint of Guinness is a boilermaker. A pint of PBR and a shot of Fireball? Boilermaker. Maker’s Mark and a Budweiser? Boilermaker. Bacardi Limon and Citradelic Tangerine IPA? Uh, maybe?
I’m inclined to call it all the same thing, because the effect is the same: You’re behind on your drinking and need to catch up. You may not be able to officially call it a boilermaker, but it’s going to get the job done. Either way you order a shot and a beer, you got to pick your poison well and there’s a few ways to do that.
The most common way is to go by price, and price is going to vary by region. When I lived in Portland, Rainier Beer was the cheapest tall boy in town and Old Crow the cheapest whiskey. In Chicago, it’ll probably be Old Style, and in New York I had really cheap Old German Boy. There’s really cheap Tito’s Vodka across the South and Southwest and really cheap beer in general across the Midwest. Basically, you’re looking for the cheapest liquor and the cheapest beer and that is your boilermaker and there is nothing to be ashamed of about that.
The other way to go is to pair your regional boozes. In Durango, that’s definitely a Ska and a Peach Street. Two out of the three owners of Ska are also owners of Peach Street Distillery located in Palisade. Some of the combos would be crazy, but I think a Apricot Shandy and a Modus Hoperandi would go perfectly together. You might also try the Soiled Dove by Durango Craft Spirits if you’re out at one of the local pubs. And if you’re on the front range, pick any of your awesome breweries, and order a Stranahan’s.
The last, and my favorite way to pair my poisons, is to go all matchy-matchy. Like a 4-year-old picking out their own clothes, you’re going to pair the grain or flavor of your booze with the grain or flavor of your beer. Want a nice tropical pairing? Try Liliko’i Kepolo and Malibu. Liliko’i is a passion fruit witbier from Avery that has a strong acidic bite that would pair perfectly with the coconut sweetness of the Malibu (this would also be a good matchy-matchy pairing with Death by Coconut by Oskar Blues). If you’re looking for something that’s more of typical boilermaker, try Bulleit Rye with Red Ryeot by La Cumbre Brewing (this actually sounds like the best possible combo so far).
In all honestly, if you’re drinking shots and beers in rounds, chances are it won’t matter what anything tastes like after the second round, but hopefully you’re nice and caught up by then. If not, and you’re still trying to catch up to that bad case of liver failure, then just switch to Long Islands and get it all over with.
Robert Alan Wendeborn is a former cellar operator at Ska Brewing and current lead cellar operator at Tin Roof Brewing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.