Giving Beer a Shot: Six Updated Boilermakers in Boston

The humble boilermaker gets a makeover.

When a proper cocktail feels too fussy, but a pint of lager alone won’t pack enough punch, there’s the boilermaker—that age-old pairing of a shot (usually whiskey) with a lawnmower beer, consumed either side by side or with the booze dropped into the brew. “It’s a workingman thing—after your shift, it’s a long day, [so have] a shot and a beer to take the edge off,” says Deep Ellum owner Max Toste. The pairing tends to be the post-work drink of choice for bartenders, who, in turn, are giving boilermakers prime menu real estate all over town (and getting quite creative in the process). Here are six buzz-worthy combinations.  

Mini Rosita Cocktail and El Steinber Beer

Photograph by Toan Trinh

The #2
$13, State Park, Kendall Square

The Shot: A mini Rosita cocktail
The Brew: Anderson Valley El Steinber

“[The beer] is from California but is in the style of a Mexican lager, so we thought we’d do a tequila-based cocktail,” says co-owner Alon Munzer of the Rosita, which gets its hue from bittersweet Campari.

Fernet-Branca and PBR Beer

Photograph by Toan Trinh

The Hopeless Romantic
$6, Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar, Fenway

The Shot: Fernet-Branca
The Brew: Pabst Blue Ribbon

This is a case of “opposites attract,” says barman Sean Frederick: “Fernet [is] one of the most pound-for-pound flavorful two ounces of liquid, and the beer [is] effervescent, fizzy, and cleansing for the palate.”

Blanco tequila and sangrita and Tecate

Photograph by Toan Trinh

The Mexican Happy Meal*
$11, Deep Ellum, Allston

The Shots: Blanco tequila and sangrita
The Brew: Tecate

According to owner Max Toste, this combination was inspired by a visit to Mexico. While you can, of course, shoot the tequila, Toste recommends sipping it. “The sangrita puts the fire out,” he says.

Old Crow Reserve bourbons and Hamm's

Photograph by Toan Trinh

The Fairsted Kitten
$7, Fairsted Kitchen, Washington Square

The Shot: Old Crow Reserve bourbon
The Brew: Hamm’s

“It’s pairing something sturdy and strong with something that is easy to drink multiples of,” says bar manager Patrick Gaggiano of this match-up, a staff favorite.

Aperol with Miller High Life

Photograph By Toan Trinh

The Rosé of Bottled Beers
$5, Silvertone, Downtown

The Shot: Aperol
The Brew: Miller High Life

Owner Josh Childs suggests taking a few sips of beer, then pouring the fruity orange liqueur into the brew. “It tastes like a San Pellegrino orange soda,” he says.

Goldschläger with Bantam Wunderkind cider

Photograph by Toan Trinh

The Disco Biscuit
$10, Brick & Mortar, Central Square

The Shot: Goldschläger
The Brew: Bantam Wunderkind cider

“The Goldschläger has a ton of cinnamon,” says beverage director Matthew Schrage. “It’s like apple pie. It has a very New England feeling to me.”

Beer and Shot Illustration

illustration by The Ellaphant in the Room

*If It Grows Together, It Goes Together

If your neighborhood bar lacks a snazzy shot-and-beer menu, just use the above phrase as a rule of thumb when choosing complementary spirits and beers. To get started, try the following:

  • Irish whiskey with an Irish stout
  • Tequila or mezcal with a Mexican lager German schnapps with a hefeweizen
  • OR take a cue from the Dutch and try a kopstootje (pronounced: kop-stow-che; translation: “little headbutt”)—a shot of botanical Bols Genever paired with a witbier or frosty pilsner.