Skip the Mint Julep! Great Beer Alternatives for the Kentucky Derby

Like Horse Racing? Yeah, me too. And this Saturday is the Kentucky Derby (I know it’s also Cinco de Mayo, but that’s just a stupid, made-up, get-drunk, American-media-marketing holiday in the US). Now, as much as I enjoy the actual racing event, I’m not all about the hoity-toity mint julep drinking atmosphere. Instead, since I know you guys are wicked cool, I’m going to offer a few beer alternatives.

Mint Juleps are made with spearmint, bourbon, sugar and water. Minty flavors are generally not appropriate in a beer. But there are a few beers that have a huge amount of herbal character that I think you’ll enjoy.

Let’s start with Dogfish Head Saison du Buff, brewed with rosemary, sage, parsley and thyme. Three great breweries collaborated to design this beer, then each brewed their own batch using the same ingredients. The resulting beer is awesomely unique and refreshing, offering citrus and herbal flavors while some terrific tartness shows through. Another unique beer worth mentioning alongside Saison du Buff is Bison Organic Honey Basil. Sweet honey with an herbal coolness? Mmmm. Either of these two beers will wow even the snootiest of the bunch! Try it.

OK. So some of you are already asking why I skipped the Bourbon. I didn’t! Patience… Honestly, I love bourbon. But I usually despise the effects it has when they age perfectly good beer in its barrels. Barrel Aging is, however, a very popular practice within the craft beer community, and many people enjoy the resulting flavors. So I found a terrific example for you, where the bourbon barrels added to the flavor profile.

I’m talking about Weyerbacher Heresy, an Imperial Stout aged in Kentucky Bourbon barrels. The rich chocolate and molasses flavors combined with more subtle licorice and cherry nuances really stand up nicely to the bourbon imparted by the barrels. Terrific sipper to break out should any pompousness get in the way!

Yes, I know you want to hear my (not) expert opinion on the actual race, which horses I’d put my money on. Well, here is the list of horses in the race. While I like my picks, keep in mind I lost $40 on opening day at Gulfstream Park this year. Anyway, here are the two horses I’d choose, with a beer recommendation the owners should have available for their jockey should they come through with a victory.


I’ll Have Another will be ridden by Jockey Mario Gutierrez. What a perfect name for a horse! When you’re in that kind of mood where you want to sit back and have a few brews, a crisp and refreshing beer that’s on the low end of the alcohol spectrum is a great choice. Half Acre Gossamer Golden Ale is the perfect beer should I’ll Have Another win. An awesome lemon and orange citrus, creamy texture, and wonderful hoppy bitterness will have you asking for more. And this beer comes canned, a bonus considering glass bottles are frowned upon at the track.


Second pick: Daddy Nose Best to be ridden by Jockey Garrett Gomez. Let me tell you what! If you put your Nose in front of a glass of Terrapin Wake-n-Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout, you will be ready to run the race yourself! The delicious chocolate and toffee aroma followed by rich and smooth flavors should be enough to fuel you and your pals when this horse brings home the Rose Garland.

So yeah, I said it. Skip the cocktail and grab an awesome beer instead for this year’s race!