Coke and beer – what a horrible thought some of you may be saying. But believe it or not, on my last visit to a German beer garden in Munich there were quite a few people ordering coke and beer, also known in German as Colabier or “diesel” (as the barman informed me).
These are the Germans, they are meant to know about beer, aren’t they?
Living in England for many years, I’m well aware of mixing lemonade with beer for a lager or bitter shandy. On a hot summer’s day, there’s almost nothing more refreshing than a pint of bitter with a hint of citrus extra carbonation when served ice cold.
I’ve even heard of a Radler, which is a European style of lager with added lemon juice. But cola, really? Surely it would just be too sweet?
Sometimes, you may think a half-and-half mixed drink of lager and lemonade is a good way of cutting down the alcohol. But, would you ever consider doing it with Coca-Cola (not to even mention the sickly sweet Pepsi!)?
Let’s take a look at the “weird” mixture of beer and cola, who knows I may even try one before the end of this story!
Beer “Cocktails” – Mixing Beer With Soft Drinks
Mixing beer with soft drinks and sodas is nothing new. Beer pairs well with many different types of sodas, giving some beers more flavor, adding to the fizziness of some lifeless beers, and making a boozy drink a little less alcoholic and easier to drink.
Shandy is the English term for a beer that has been mixed with soda, normally lemonade. Traditionally made with a 50/50 mix of English bitter and fizzy lemonade, a shandy can also use lager or any other type of ale with the lemonade added in varying quantities.
I remember as a child growing up in the UK, local soft drinks companies like Ben Shaws or Top Deck would sell a premixed shandy in a can, which was popular more with kids than adults. (I’m not sure whether there was any “beer” in it or just beer flavoring, but we still felt grown up with our “boozy drink”!)
In German, Biermischgetränke indicates the same idea as a British shandy, although a style of beer similar is called a Radler which uses 50% beer to 50% lemon juice. Coming from the German word for cyclist, legend has it that a tavern on a popular cycle route near Munich was running out of beer on one hot summer’s day so started mixing lemonade with the beer.
The French call a shandy a panaché and, elsewhere in Europe in the nineteenth century, a shandygaff was a mixture of beer and ginger beer. In Chile, they even mix Fanta with beer and it’s called a Fanschop.
This brings us neatly back to the question of beer and coke, do they go together well? The Germans seem to think so.
The German Craze for Beer and Coke
You are more likely to encounter a beer and coke “cocktail” in Germany than in any other country. They even have a few names for this strange mix, the most common being “diesel.”
Traditionally, it would be made with a 40-oz bottle of Altbier and a Coca-Cola (sometimes a shot of cherry liquor may be added for a stronger drink, tasting more like a Cherry Coke beer).
Even German wheat beers are mixed with cola and called a Colaweizen. Mixing a cloudy wheat beer like a hefeweizen with cola, I am told, makes a nice sweeter alternative for those who may not have a palate for wheat beers.
Other names for cola and beer cocktails in Germany include:
- Krekfender – traditionally made with Altbier again!
- Drecksack – a Kölsch & Cola
- Mazout – the Belgian word for diesel
- Fir tree
Adding beer to a coke makes for a more refreshing drink ideal for picnics or those summer afternoons in a beer garden and the Germans even produce premixed cans of diesel you can buy in most supermarkets or bars.
How To Mix Your Own Colabier
Personally, I would recommend you use a domestic lager or pilsner-style lager rather than a fancy ale for mixing with cola. Some of the darker beers already have sweet notes which mixing with cola would just result in a sickly sweet alcoholic drink.
Both drinks should be cold, if not ice cold, and you should try to use a tall beer glass to mix the clabber. Pour in the cola first and allow the bubbles to calm down before tilting the glass while you slowly pour in the beer to avoid too much foaming up. Straighten the glass as you reach the top for just the right amount of head.
Normally a pre-mixed colabier would use a 50/50 mix of cola and beer, but some find this too sweet, and it’s better to try adding just a third of the amount of cola for a stronger beer flavor.
Colaweizen is just as easy to make but instead uses a cloudy wheat beer with your chosen cola. Traditionally, it would be served in a classic wheat beer glass and is perfect with some salty snacks like pretzels to counterbalance the sweetness.
If you want a stronger drink again, you could down the beer-to-cola ratio to 70% beer, and 30% cola. Add the cola first then fill the rest with wheat beer like Erdinger, making sure you tilt the glass and pour very slowly. The extra carbonation of the cola makes this a ticking time bomb if poured too hastily.
What Does Colabier Actually Taste Like?
Beer and Coca-Cola are two of my all-time favorite drinks, but I was still wary of mixing them together. I’d rather drink my coke with a Jack Daniels and I’m not totally averse to a shot of lemonade in my pint of lager top. I was even known to drink the odd pint of Turbo Shandy (Smirnoff Ice and Stella Artois) when at Uni, but coke?
I finally gave in and, being the craft beer snob I am, took a bottle of Czech’s finest Pilsner Urquell and mixed it in a 50:50 ratio with Coca-Cola.
The result? Well, it wasn’t disgusting, in a way it was quite refreshing and I could see myself sneaking the odd Colabier at the next BBQ (but maybe hiding it in a bottle jacket from my beer-loving buddies).
When mixed with wheat beer to make a Colaweizen, it makes for a sweeter alternative for those not too keen on traditional German wheat beers – it’s certainly something my wife would drink in the summer months.
Most people who have tasted Colabier would recommend a 70/30 beer to coke mix or at most, a 60/40 ratio as half and half can be overpoweringly sweet unless you use a very dry quality pilsner, but why would you waste that by mixing with cheap cola?
Can You Get Drunk Quicker From Colabier?
Although adding cola to a beer may make it more drinkable, especially with more challenging, heavily-hopped beers, remember most colas are non-alcoholic.
You may drink more glasses of beer in a shorter time but you are still drinking 30% less or 40% less actual beer depending on the ratio you use of alcoholic beer. Just don’t go adding too much cherry liquor if you are looking at making a cherry coke beer.
If you’re looking at ways of cutting down your beer consumption; maybe you plan on driving later, or you’re due back at work, a safer idea would be to alternate between beers and soft drinks like cola. That way you can still enjoy your favorite beers and cut out a whole beer each time you reach for a soft drink.
Kirsche Colabierbowle for Your Next Gathering
If you remember those brightly colored punches from your high school dances, or even the reunions, this punch recipe is an ideal way of getting more of your buddies to try coke and beer cocktails.
A Kirsche Colabierbowle is a winner for beer drinkers and cocktail lovers alike. The beer pairs with the cola in a delicious way with a subtle cherry flavor added by the 1 tsp of cherry liquor and sherry-soaked cherries to garnish the glasses for an extra pop.
- 1 cup drained maraschino cherries
- 1 cup dry sherry for soaking the cherries overnight
- 40-oz bottle Altbier chilled
- 2 cups cola chilled
- 1 tsp cherry liquor
Chill all the ingredients well before mixing them in a large punch bowl. Don’t add ice to the punch itself, you don’t want to water down all that lovely beer, instead, serve in small glasses over just a couple of cubes of ice. Be warned this punch goes down dangerously easy, much more so than a traditional glass of beer.
Beer and Cola: My Final Thoughts
It’s certainly been an eye-opening journey. Who knew that the Germans who arguably make some of the best beers in the world then go and mix it with a cola? Even selling it in bottles and cans premixed for convenience.
If you dream of being transported back to a German beer garden on a hot summer’s day, Colabier could be quite refreshing. It could also be considered a good entry-level alcopop for younger people who haven’t quite acquired that taste for beer yet.
But to order it in a bar, as an adult? I’m sorry Germany, that’s not going to happen for me. I have tried cola and beer and, to be honest, it’s not a keeper in my opinion.
Now adding grapefruit juice to a hoppy pilsner, that’s a different story, the citrussy grapefruit boosts the hop flavors to almost those of an IPA – that’s something I could live with (but probably in the privacy of my own backyard!)
Have you ever tried cola and beer, or are you even tempted to? Let us know your thoughts and experiences with cola and beer or any other weird and wonderful beer cocktail you may have tried with soda beverages or even fresh juices.