Make mine a boilermaker

In search of the perfect beer and whiskey pairing.


The boilermaker is a truly classic serve, traditionally enjoyed by manual workers at the end of a gruelling shift; a shot of whiskey, paired with a glass of cold beer, each sipped in turn to reveal their hidden depths. Naturally, the exact origins of the drink itself are murky, but it is believed its name pays homage to the US workers who built and maintained steam locomotives in the 1800s. The combination of beer and whiskey was an easy choice of drink that fast became a staple.

However, this is not the only story of how the boilermaker came to find its name. Another tells us of Richard Trevitchik of Cornwall, who – legend has it – was testing his design for a steam-powered vehicle on Christmas Eve, 1801. Once the vehicle successfully climbed the village’s steep hill, he took his team and friends out for a whiskey and beer.

Such was his excitement though, that Trevitchik forgot to douse the fire inside the machine’s boiler, and when he returned – possibly a little tipsy – it had been reduced to ashes. They blamed it on the shot and beer combo he was drinking, and the boilermaker was born.

Whatever the truth though, the boilermaker remains a serve with a real sense of history. Simple it may be, but it is much greater than the sum of its parts; it is a celebration, a ritual, a reward after a hard day of work. That’s something we can all enjoy.

How to make the perfect boilermaker

Fundamentally, the most important rule for making the perfect boilermaker is to go for flavours you like. There is no right and wrong. This serve is meant to bring maximum satisfaction with minimum fuss. That notwithstanding, we teamed with Bulleit Bourbon brand ambassador Kirsten Jarin, to put together three great pairings using beers you’ll find at Brew//LDN.

“We always encourage everyone to enjoy their Bulleit Whiskey with any beer they prefer. If you wish to enjoy a Bulleit 10, with an amber ale, please do so. The Bulleit Team (through extensive ‘research’) recommend these styles of beers with our varying Bulleit expressions, but it’s always subjective.

“My only other advice is to enjoy boilermakers with friends! Experiment with your Bulleit whiskey and see what beers you think pair best. Commemorate a hard day’s work, use the time to reflect on your achievements. Here at the Bulleit team, we’d love to see photos of people enjoying a Bulleit and beer moment @bulleitwhiskey.”


The subtlety and complexity of Bulleit Bourbon comes from its unique blend of rye, corn, and barley malt, an exclusive yeast strain and Kentucky’s pure limestone filtered water. Due to its especially high rye content (around 30%), Bulleit Bourbon has a bold, spicy character with a finish that's distinctively clean and smooth.

Kirsten says: 

“Bulleit Bourbon is a corn-led whiskey, which also has a high portion of rye in the mash bill. Therefore, you’ll need a beer that has some weight to it and decent amount of flavour. Bourbon and an American red ale are an excellent pairing, for example, while lighter styles of beers with little hop character – such as a pilsner or lager – fare well with Bulleit Bourbon, as it balances out the whiskey’s rich corn body and allow its sweet, spicy character to shine.”

Our pairing recommendation

Wolfpack has long been one of our favourite lagers, and we think it goes brilliantly with Bulleit’s flagship expression. Brewed in the true Bohemian style, it’s clean, light and malty with a crisp kick of spice, all of which play very nicely with the smoother spice of Bulleit.


Bulleit Rye is made with a mash bill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley. This whiskey is known for its peppery properties, hints of allspice, leading to woody cinnamon, clove and vanilla notes. It makes sense to pair this bold style with a full-bodied IPA, a style of beer which is rich in hop flavour and will help enhance the predominant spicy notes of this whiskey.  

Kirsten says:

“Our Bulleit Rye has a peppery bite with notes of allspice and cinnamon, an IPA (India Pale Ale) is usually a hoppy, flavourful beast. This style has bags of flavours with a malt backbone, and really enhances the flavours of Rye. Blonde ales i.e. wheat beers tend to pair well with spicy flavours, as they are usually light and fruity. The allspice characteristics of Bulleit Rye are palpable when you enjoy a blonde ale alongside it.”

Our pairing recommendation

This London Italian trio have been delighting the capital’s drinkers for a good few years now, and we’ve picked their Panaro pale ale to pair with Bulliet Rye. It’s an old-school west coast pale, so big on flavour and aroma, with plenty of pine and resin to stand up to – and complement – this punchy bourbon.


Bulleit 10

This whiskey is aged in charred American white oak barrels that have been selected and set aside to age for 10 years. The result is a special expression of Bulleit that provides a rich, deep, incredibly flavoursome whiskey, with notes of caramel toffee and coffee. 

Kirsten says:

“Our aged 10-year bourbon is a deep, toffeed, decadent treat. It’s a whiskey to sip and savour preferably next to a deep, dark, rich caramel stout, where many of the same flavours are commonly prevalent. The rich, deep tones of a stout really help to bring out the deep caramel, toffee flavours that resonate in this whiskey. 

Our pairing recommendation

It has to be Five Points Brewing Co’s Railway Porter. One of the brewery’s very first beers, and – particularly on cask – one of the very best porters out there. Smooth and full-bodied, expect coffee and chocolate in abundance. Paired with the sweet caramel oakiness of the bourbon, we also found cinder toffee and dark fruit coming through. A real fireplace combo!

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