Red Beer Is The Michelada Of The Midwest

If you're hanging with a Midwesterner at a bar and hear them order a red beer, you might expect to see a beautiful red ale if you aren't used to the term. Instead, what shows up is a glass with a red liquid that is created by combining only two things — beer and tomato juice. This isn't a michelada, which is similar, although it's become nicknamed the michelada of the Midwest.

Red beer in the Midwest isn't just a hangover cure (though it's that too) or a fun drink to order at a bar; it's the expected drink at brunches and tailgate parties in Nebraska, Minnesota, and all over the country's heartland. The time of day doesn't matter, and Midwesterners are enjoying their tomato juice and beer whenever the mood strikes.

Red beer is compared to the michelada for good reason since they are both similar to a Bloody Mary and contain beer instead of vodka, with the addition of tomato juice for the red beer and tomato juice with hot sauce for the michelada. Though they are similar, they do have differences, and of course, they each share their own special journey on how they came to be.

Where did red beer come from?

Red beer doesn't have a far-fetched tale like the michelada does, whose legend is a romantic one of being named after a Mexican Revolution General who cared for his troops by ordering them beer with hot sauce at a cantina. No –- in typical, casual Midwest style, most say that red beer just sort of came to be, and they don't remember when it didn't exist. Still, when researched, historians can't find any trace of red beer on restaurant menus of long ago. In the end, it might be that along the road, someone realized it was a great cure for hangovers, or when trying to keep up at an early morning tailgate party before a game, when beer was a bit much, Midwesterners started adding tomato juice, and voila — breakfast.

Today, red beer drink has a few nicknames, including "Bloody Beer," Red Eye," and Red Rooster," and whether red beer came to be recently or long ago, the best part is that the base is simple with beer and tomato juice, then after that, you can get creative, as many red beer fans do, and add some other things to spice it up.

Making a red beer

Since red beer begins with beer, which beer should you use? It's usually just a personal preference, but most Midwesterners will say to use a light pilsner, such as Bud Light or Busch Lite. The amount of tomato juice can vary as well, and you might like heavy tomato juice early in the day and then heavy on the beer in the evening. After the base is complete, you can get creative with your red beer. That's where it starts to become like a Bloody Mary, but with beer.

Jeff Rogers, bar director for Jester Concepts, tells VinePair, "I have seen chocolate, fish sauce, endless amounts of hot sauce, raw eggs, and garlic cloves added to red beer. It is crazy to even try to define a traditional one because of this." No two red beers are alike since there are no accurate measurements, and you can keep it simple or add salt to the rim, hot sauce to the tomato juice, or garnish with pickles, olives, or an entire meal, as you sometimes see on today's Bloody Mary.

If you aren't a vodka fan, the red beer is worth a try. If you don't want to make your own, head on over to just about any bar or restaurant in Nebraska or Minnesota, and they'll happily serve one up with that warm Midwestern smile and a "Howdy!" when you walk in the door.