The “beertini,” also known to many as a Dirty PBR, is a Midwest classic combining cheap light beer and green olives.
It’s not as gross as it sounds.
The brine from olives cuts the metallic taste of mass-canned beers and adds flavor to lagers that are otherwise bland and watery. Plus, it’s nice to have a snack at the end of your drink.
Beertinis go against everything craft-beer stands for. And seeing as Pittsburgh is still experiencing a growth of homegrown breweries, it’s worth pointing out that this “cocktail” is not meant to cancel out the great brews being made locally. In fact, I wouldn’t even recommend attempting to add olives to a pilsner from East End Brewing Company or a Kolsch from Grist House Craft Brewery. Though they qualify as “light,” they do just fine without garnishes. It’s the cut-rate beer where the olives can make a big difference.
Based on Pittsburgh’s affinity for easy-drinking, it seems like the Dirty PBR would fit right in here. But in the time I’ve lived in Pittsburgh, I’ve only been brave enough to ask for it a few times. More often than not, I’m greeted with a confused — and on the rare occasion, equally dirty — look, though every now and then, I get a bartender to sacrifice a few martini olives for an order. (Note: the olives have to be green. Kalamatas don’t do the trick.)
If olives aren’t your thing, you can substitute with pickles; in the same way that pickle juice takes the burn off of whiskey in a pickleback shot, the brine of actual pickles works well with lighter, Czech-style beers. Both are fermented, and when put together, the similar flavors play together nicely.
Another member of the Midwestern ‘tini family is the Red Beer, a light beer topped with tomato juice and salt. Though I can’t speak to this combination — tomato juice is low on my list of drinkable things — it’s nearly as revered as the classic beertini. The drink is not quite as flavorful as a michelada, but is built on a similar concept as the Dirty PBR. Tomato juice adds a memorable zest to a not-so-memorable beer.
If you’re still thinking, “beertinis are gross and shouldn’t exist,” I encourage you to drink one of these options that offends you the least. You might learn something.