Red beer with a Colorado vibe

Before we moved to Colorado 10 years ago, we’d never heard of a red beer. Our initial reaction when our friends offered one was something like, “Wait, you want to make a bloody mary with beer? Dood!”

Clearly, we came to Colorado with a lot to learn, because red beers have become a common part of our weekend/camping/tailgating repertoire. For one thing, it feels right when you are, uh, craving that first beer before noon. (Camping and tailgating are definitely two of those times, and we rarely do either without a red beer or two to kick things off.) It is widely believed to be a good hangover cure, no doubt because of the tomato juice base, hence its pre-lunchtime reputation.

A Midwestern standard

Fact is, red beer is a ubiquitous drink across the Midwest. Depending on where you are, they might call it a red eye, michelada, Montana Mary, red rooster, red draw, bloody beer or other colloquialism, but wherever you are, the recipe will usually start with a few basic ingredients: lager-style beer, lime juice and bloody mary mix or tomato juice in a glass with a salted rim. Regional twists might include hot sauce, bullion powder, Clamato juice or who knows what else.

What you don’t see, hardly ever, is a red beer made with anything other than a bland lager/pilsner/light beer. So we had to ask ourselves, why not use a beer you can taste through the tomato juice, so the concoction tastes like more than just tomato juice with alcohol? We get funny looks when we order a red beer made from a craft beer – kinda like if we had put premium gas in a VW bug – but we think it really works to use a hoppy IPA or a good amber ale.

So, as a hat tip to our adopted state, which is renowned for its hoppy IPAs and other craft beers, we present to you our Colorado red beer.

Colorado red beer with a hoppy IPA base

How to make a Colorado red beer

You’ll see a wide variety of red-to-beer ratios, but we pour a 12-ounce beer into a pint glass and fill the rest with bloody mary mix, lime juice and hot sauce. (We’re split on ice; one of us insists on it, the other can’t imagine ice and beer in the same glass.) That’s high on the beer end of the ratio for a lot of red beer fans, but the reason for that is really simple: We here at SSS HQ like our beer, so we want to taste it in the mix.

We mentioned also that we like some spice in our red beer, so we put that on your lips right off by serving it in a glass rimmed with a mixture of salt, pepper and ancho chile powder. We typically rim half the glass, taking care to apply the rim mixture to the outside of the glass without getting too much on the inside, because you don’t necessarily want to add a big dose of salt to your drink.

Next we squeeze half a lime into the glass, then 4-5 shakes of whichever hot sauce we’re feeling that day. Then we pour the beer into the glass, fill with bloody mary mix and stir to combine all those nice flavors. We garnish with a lime wedge and serve, then we repeat until kickoff time.

Colorado red beer with a hoppy IPA base
Colorado red beer made with a hoppy IPA

Are red beers and/or Micheladas in your cocktail repertoire? Do you have any special ingredients you like? Tell us about them in the Comments section.


Colorado Red Beer

We put a twist on the basic red beer by using a hoppy Colorado IPA and giving it some spicy kick. You won’t want to go camping or tailgating without one.

  • Author: Dave_Grimm
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 serving 1x
  • Category: cocktail
  • Cuisine: Midwestern


1 12-ounce bottle/can of hoppy Colorado IPA (or use some other IPA if you must)

About 3 ounces of bloody mary mix or Clamato

Half of a lime

45 shakes of your favorite hot sauce, or more/less, to taste

For salty-spicy rim mix:

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ancho chile powder or other chile powder or even a basic chili powder


Make the rim mix: Combine all ingredients in a shallow plate and stir to combine.

Make the cocktail: Rub the half lime over the rim of a pint glass. Holding the glass by the bottom, tilt the glass toward the plate and roll the outside edge on the rim mixture to coat the rim of the glass.

If you’re using ice, add it now. Either way, squeeze the lime into the glass, then add the hot sauce. Pour the beer into the glass, tilting to pour down the side somewhat while still allowing a little head on the beer. (If you’re using ice, you’ll need to stop short of using the full beer or you won’t have room for any red.) Fill the glass with bloody mary mix to fill, then stir gently to combine. Garnish with a lime slice and serve.

Keywords: Colorado red beer

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